Tom Ingram snares Croft pole but facing penalty
Tom Ingram posted the quickest time in a chaotic qualifying session ahead of the seventh round of the BTCC season at Croft, but is facing exclusion for a ride height infringement.
With heavy showers having fallen during the Porsche Sprint Challenge session that took place ahead of qualifying, drivers were faced with a wet circuit when the green light came on and with the potential for more rain to fall.
Showing how tricky the conditions were, Dan Cammish had a huge moment at the final complex thanks to standing water on his first timed run as drivers looked to try and get a banker lap in in case the weather conditions worsened.
Ash Sutton was the early pace setter in the Laser Tools Racing Infiniti on a 1:27.635s ahead of the FK2 Honda of Jake Hill and Josh Cook’s newer Civic Type R. Sutton then bettered his time on the following lap to increase his advantage at the front to nearly half a second, with the wet conditions negating the additional ballast on the Q50.
Hill was the next driver to take his turn at the head of the field, going quickest at all in sector two to move ahead of Sutton into provisional pole as a number of drivers were stripped of times for exceeding track limits.
Sutton responded to go just 0.005s clear of Hill having gone quickest of all in sector one before the first driver ran into serious trouble, with Mike Bushell backing his VW into the barriers at Sunny Out and damaging the rear of the car.
That came after Bushell had earlier gone off at Clervaux in both free practice sessions.
Sutton held his place at the head of the field as the session reached the half-way stage ahead of Hill and Tom Chilton, with defending champion Turkington sitting down in tenth and Cammish in eleventh after a trip through the gravel at turn one.
When the cars headed back out for a second run, Hill was next to hit trouble as he went sideways through the gravel at turn one in the MB Motorsport Honda – managing to keep the car out of the barriers but picking up a puncture that would leave him to try and return slowly to the pits.
Cook put his BTC Racing car onto provisional pole ahead of Ollie Jackson as conditions improved only for both drivers to lose their times to track limits. However, Sutton’s stay at the top wouldn’t last as Senna Proctor’s Hyundai went quickest, and then Bobby Thompson put his Audi onto provisional pole just the red flag came out to recover Aiden Moffat from the gravel.
That lap wasn’t to last either – with Thompson then stripped of his quickest time to leave Proctor sitting on pole as the cars returned to the pit lane, with the top four covered by just 0.060s.
The clock was reset for a ten minute dash to the finish on a drying circuit, with the whole field heading straight out. However, before any timed laps could be set, Sutton went off in the same place at team-mate Moffat to bring the red flags out once again.
The clock was once again put back to ten minutes, with Sutton losing his fastest lap for causing the red flag – dropping him back down to fifth ahead of the restart but with the prospect of a much greater penalty as others looked to improve.
Straight away, Cammish rocketed up from 16th into provisional pole as the first driver into the 1M 26s, with Ingram going second quickest in the Toyota and Cook moving into third. Cammish then lost his time for track limits, putting Ingram onto provisional pole and leaving the Honda driver with work do to in the final five minutes.
The drying circuit however looked good for only a single flying lap, with lap times quickly falling away as the cars continued to pound round.
Cook however did go green in sector one as he looked to get ahead of Ingram only to then los out in the remainder of the lap – losing time behind Jac Constable’s Vauxhall and failing to improve.
As the chequered flag came out, Ingram’s place at the front was secure as the Speedworks man snared pole but his car then appeared to fail the ride height test on its return to the pits – meaning he is likely to now lose the position and all of his times, which would drop him to the back of the grid.
Ingram had ended up 0.275s clear of Cook on the times, with Proctor sure of a best ever qualifying result having posted the third fastest time.
Hill was fourth quickest ahead of the BMWs of Turkington and Oliphant, with Thompson impressing in the Audi with the seventh quickest time ahead of Sutton – who was lucky to not fall lower down the order following his issue.
Chilton and Neal rounded out the top ten, with Cammish down in 16th spot having been unable to match the lap he lost.