Chris Smiley grabs pole for Castle Combe opener

Chris Smiley grabbed pole position for the third time this season after topping the times ahead of the fifth meeting of the TCR UK Championship season at Castle Combe.

The Restart Racing driver – who started out front in the opening two meetings of the campaign – emerged at the head of the field following a frenetic half hour long session at the high-speed Wiltshire circuit.

Smiley would spend a large chunk of the session at the front having put his Honda Civic on provisional pole and was able to improve more than once to extend his advantage over the pack behind.

“It’s nine years since been here and it’s an awesome track when you have a car that is hooked up,” he said. “The boys have worked hard in the last few days as we didn’t have an ECU for the car until Wednesday as it was sent back to Italy two weeks ago and luckily we had a good friend who was on holiday around half an hour from JAS Motorsport and was able to bring it back in her hand luggage!

“It’s quite a story and I thought we might have to fly out to Italy to get it as it was so close. We made it and the car was really hooked up. Now we just need a clear start and see how it goes.”

The Northern Irishman would end up just under two-tenths of a second ahead of the Hyundai of Adam Shepherd, which had earlier topped the times in a short free practice session.

Shepherd however would be one of two drivers to suffer a front-right puncture during the session which hampered his chances of improving.

Bruce Winfield briefly held pole in his Cupra before losing his best time to track limits, and the Power Maxed Racing driver then found himself caught up behind the Volkswagen of Steve Gales on his final flying lap in the session as he had to settle for third ahead of the Hyundai i30 of Bradley Kent.

Brad Hutchison’s Audi will start the opening race of the weekend from fifth spot, with Scott Sumpton putting in his best qualifying performance of the campaign to secure sixth on the grid – taking the final qualifying points away from championship leader Isaac Smith in his Volkswagen.

Jamie Tonks, Alex Ley and Max Hart round out the top ten, with the latter restricted to just four laps in the session after suffering a right rear failure on his Hyundai early on.

Defending champion Lewis Kent endured a session to forget as he struggled for pace in the Essex & Kent Motorsport Hyundai Veloster – ending up back in 15th spot having also suffered a front-right puncture mid-way through the session.