With the focus for the weekend firmly on the battle for the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, Tom Chilton upset the apple cart somewhat to secure a stunning pole for Team Aon at Brands Hatch.
The Arena-run team had been well off the pace at the start of the year with its all-new Ford Focus, with improvements coming in gradual steps as the season progressed.
Fresh from a maiden podium in the final race at Rockingham last time out, Chilton was on the pace during practice and then carried his form into qualifying to set a time of 1min 33.159secs early on. Despite the best efforts of Jason Plato and Fabrizio Giovanardi – both of whom were within 0.030secs of the former Team Halfords man – Chilton held on to take the first BTCC pole for a Ford car since the 2000 season.
Plato edged out Giovanardi by just 0.003secs to secure second on the grid, with Giovanardi's title hopes being boosted by the fact that current points leader Colin Turkington could only manage the tenth fastest lap.
Turkington's cause hasn't been aided by the fact that both Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan were able to qualify between him and Giovanardi in fourth and fifth – Neal finally appearing to be over the engine issues he had suffered during practice.
Mat Jackson in the second Racing Silverline Chevrolet will start from sixth ahead of Airwaves BMW pair Jonny Adam and Rob Collard, while Paul O'Neill's sunshine.co.uk Honda and Turkington's Team RAC BMW round out the top ten.
While Chilton celebrated pole, there was disappointment for team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole, who was running fifth when his car failed the ride height test. His Focus then failed the test a further two times and will start from the rear of the grid as a result.