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Plato claims pole for first Oulton race

9 June 2012

Jason Plato had posted easily the best times in both of Saturday's practice sessions, but when it came to qualifying itself he was pushed to the limit by Matt Neal, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan, with the top spot not decided until the very final moment.

Plato had looked to have blown his chance of taking pole away from Neal when he hit problems on two of his earlier qualifying runs.

"I ran wide at Lodge corner on my first run and on my second was off the track and through the puddles at Cascades. It all came down to that final run," he admitted: "It was all or nothing on that last lap."

Neal had been aware that Plato was going to go for it, but ultimately didn't have a chance to respond before the session ended. "I was warming up a new set of tyres for what was going to be my final run but couldn't get across the line in time to respond," he admitted.

Although the track had dried up considerably from the morning, there were still damp patches and even puddles during qualifying as Plato had just discovered. There also looked to be more rain looming on the horizon, although fortunately it stayed away and didn't play a factor in qualifying after all.

Given the tricky conditions, it was remarkable that all four runners on the grid for the first Oulton Park round of the 2012 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship tomorrow managed to break the previous qualifying lap record. In the end, less than two tenths of a second separated the quartet.

Collard - known for his "demon starts" - was particularly delighted to be starting from third place for tomorrow's opening race.

"I went from fifth to first at Donington Park but [I don't know] whether I can squeeze between Jason and Matt at the start," he admitted. "It's a very narrow circuit at Oulton [and] I think that gap might close very quickly."

Neal's team mate Gordon Shedden will start from fifth place and will have a bit to do if he's to continue his running run of outstanding form.

All three drivers that had incidents in the second practice session - Mat Jackson, Ollie Jackson and Andy Neate - were able to get out and take part in qualifying, although Mat Jackson's Ford Focus was only able to put in one flying lap because of ongoing problems with his cooling system and he had to settle for tenth place on the starting grid for Sunday morning.

Full practice 1, practice 2 and qualifying times available.


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