Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Callum Newsham starts his third TCR UK season with his first pole

Callum Newsham has started his third season in TCR UK at Brands Hatch with his first ever pole position in the championship.

It was a closely contested 20-minute qualifying session on the circuit’s short Indy layout, and JH Racing driver Newsham put his first-generation Hyundai i30 N TCR on pole by just 0.029 seconds over Pro Alloys Racing’s Viktor Andersson who is giving the Lynk & Co 03 TCR its UK racing debut this weekend.

Andersson was first to top the times, then Rick Kerry lowered the pace to 53:821 four minutes into the session. Shortly after that Will Powell spun exiting Druids and his out-of-control Honda Civic Type R TCR went down Graham Hill and into the barriers. But the low speed of the impact meant he was immediately able to get going again.

Kerry, one of the first to leave the pits, lowered the pace to 51:819 and then 50:614, with Newsham his closest rival after six minutes but 1.746s slower than him.

Newsham then became the first to set a sub-50:000 lap, although he was not on top for long as Adam Shepherd set a 49:095. His response to that was a 48:622, which put him back ahead but by just 0.08s as Joseph Marshall-Birks went second fastest.

Going into the second half of qualifying it was Newsham who led the way with a 48:483, with Marshall-Birks 0.179s behind and Andersson 0.444s back in third. Shepherd was fourth, but the Area Motorsport driver had pulled off at Graham Hill Bend due to a problem with his Cupra Leon Competición. He had already lost running in pre-event testing due to driveshaft issues.

Andersson lowered the pace to 48:453 with nine minutes to go, putting him just 0.014s ahead of Marshall-Birks and 0.03s ahead of Newsham. A minute-and-a-half later Marshall-Birks found more pace, setting a 48:320 in his Audi RS 3 LMS II.

At this point reigning champion Carl Boardley left the pits, and he was soon in the battle for pole as he improved on successive laps. First he jumped into sixth place, then up to second, and put himself on provisional pole by setting a 48:212 with five-and-a-half minutes remaining which broke TCR UK’s qualifying lap record.

Newsham improved in third place on his next lap, then set a 48:014 to reclaim top spot. The lap after that he improved to what looked like an unbeatable 47:907.

There was still more pace to be found on drivers’ second runs, and Andersson and Shepherd fought over third place as the clock counted down until Shepherd had to pull off again. With 45s to go Andersson – a circuit newcomer – knocked Boardley down from second place with 48:176. There was just enough time for two more laps, and Andersson improved to 47:936 moments before the chequered flag waved.

He had one more chance to close the 0.029s gap to Newsham, but encountering drivers on their cooldown laps disrupted his efforts and he could not improve, therefore securing Newsham pole.