Honda reigns in BTCC rain

Smith on surprise pole as fancied runners struggle.

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The Eurotech Racing Honda Civic of Jeff Smith took a surprise pole position for the first round of the British Touring Car Championship, after the qualifying session was disrupted by two red flags and then rain.

Smith’s Civic Type R put in a lap of 48.37sec around the 1.2-mile Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch, the session then stopped when the Subaru Levorg of Ashley Sutton went straight on at Paddock Hill bend, just as the more expected front-row contenders were planning their fast laps.

By the time the session restarted the rain had come and as it began to fall heavily Smith’s pole position was secure. Perhaps most frustrated was Tom Ingram – last year’s round one winner had topped every practice session in his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis, but will start second in Sunday’s race with a time 0.062 of second behind Smith.

Honda’s day

The second row will comprise the Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda pairing of reigning champion Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, followed by the Team BMW 125i of Colin Turkington and the second Eurotech Honda of Jack Goff.

Others failing to make the most of the curtailed session, which had already been interrupted by an earlier red flag when the BTC Norlin Racing Chevrolet Cruze of Dave Newsham went off at Paddock, included the Subaru works team. Best of the four cars was Jason Plato in 16th spot, just over eight tenths of a second off pole position.

The new entrants in the manufacturer championship, Vauxhall, endured a mixed session. The PowerMaxed Racing Astra of Tom Chilton just failed to make the top 10 with a time just 0.585 of a second off Smith, while the second Astra of BTCC rookie Senna Proctor ended up in the barrier at Druids hairpin. Chilton will start just behind the distinctive yellow Shredded Wheat liveried Ford Focus of Matt Jackson.

A promising session for both BMW and Ford. Photo: PSP Images

The first of three 24-lap races is due to take the green flag at 11.30 on Sunday morning in front of more than 30,000 spectators. The Car Expert is at Brands Hatch and will post a full report of the race day action.

Subaru have work to do after a disappointing qualifying. Photo: PSP Images

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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