Stephen Jelley has taken his maiden pole position in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship after setting the pace in qualifying for the final rounds of the season at Brands Hatch.
In a result that seemed to even surprise his Team RAC outfit back on pitlane, the former F3 racer posted a best time of 49.297secs in the late stages of the session to jump ahead of fellow BMW driver Mat Jackson on the timesheets. Despite there being time remaining in the session, no-one was able to knock Jelley off the top as he celebrated his first front row start since joining the BTCC at the start of the year.
“The buggers thought I hadn't done the time,” he said. “It's mega.”
Jackson's second place on the grid could be crucial in his fight for the Independents' title and third overall after Colin Turkington could only manage sixth quickest with a number of quick drivers between the two BMW drivers. Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden both managed to get between the rivals, with Neal in fourth and Shedden fifth having been quick throughout the day at the Kent circuit.
Behind sixth-placed Turkington, Rob Collard was seventh ahead of Adam Jones and Steven Kane while title rivals Jason Plato and Fabrizio Giovanardi – both carrying plenty of ballast thanks to their position at the head of the standings – will start tenth and eleventh. With Giovanardi needing at least a podium to secure the crown for the second season in a row, he may well have to wait beyond the opening race to take back-to-back titles.
Tom Onslow-Cole and Tom Chilton had both been on the pace during practice but slipped back in qualifying to post the twelfth and 13th quickest times, although the close nature of the times around the short Indy circuit saw both within four-tenths of a second of pole.
Andy Jordan, Jason Hughes, Michael Doyle and John George were all within a second of pole, with Martyn Bell and Alan Taylor both outside that marker.
Chris Stockton failed to set a time with a fuel pressure problem on his BTC Racing SEAT while a suspected diff problem meant Mike Jordan also didn't post a timed lap. Harry Vaulkhard did set a lap but failed the ride height test on two occasions and under the 'two strikes and you're out' rule was forced to sit out the remainder of the session and was stripped of his times.
Erkut also failed to head out onto the track during the session with his replacement Astra Sport Hatch en-route to the circuit.
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