Honda proved the car to beat as Matt Neal took pole position for round 10 of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Oulton Park.
It was Neal’s second successive pole position in his Halfords Yuasa Racing Civic Type-R, who had previously not started from the front of the grid since 2012. And it was scored on a circuit thought to favour rear-wheel-drive cars.
Neal triumphed in a battle with the Pirtek Racing BMW 125i of Andrew Jordan, the pair swapping fastest times throughout the half-hour qualifying session at the Cheshire track. The Honda eventually set the mark with a 1 min 26.151sec lap, 93.01mph and just 0.126sec ahead of the BMW.
The session was then stopped following a heavy off for the Honda of Matt Simpson and the five minutes left after the restart was not long enough for Jordan to respond.
The second row for the race comprises the Laser Tools Mercedes A-Class of Aiden Moffat and Jordan’s BMW team-mate Colin Turkington, with the second Honda of reigning champion Gordon Shedden and the Subaru Levorg of Ashley Sutton next up.
Subaru’s varying fortunes
Sutton again proved the class of the four-strong Adrian Flux Subaru team, the next fastest Levorg of Jason Plato mired down in 18th spot. This was despite BTCC organisers taking the unprecedented step of monitoring and if necessary adjusting the boost levels of the Subaru and Ford entries throughout all of the day’s practice sessions, following complaints over a lack of straight-line speed for both types of car.
The monitoring certainly seemed to aid the Ford entries, with Matt Jackson’s Shredded Wheat Racing Motorbase Focus taking seventh grid spot, with the Maximum Motorsport example of Josh Cook alongside.
With work to do, meanwhile, is current championship leader Tom Ingram, his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis only qualifying 12th on the 32-car grid, in which the first 22 entries were separated by less than one second.
The first of three 15-lap races takes place at 12.17p on Sunday. Check back to The Car Expert for a full report on the race day action.