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Wrathall overcomes Plato for maiden BTCC pole at Snetterton

Saturday, August 11 2012

Frank Wrathall will start the first of tomorrow's three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Snetterton from the front of the grid, after a strong performance in qualifying today (Saturday). The Toyota driver overhauled title challenger Jason Plato in the final moments by little more than a hundredth of a second to take his maiden pole position in the series.

Qualifying initially followed the form of the practice sessions in that many of the drivers felt the need to pit after one exploratory lap of the circuit. The track had been getting hotter throughout the day and if there was a lack of dense, cold air for the engines, plenty of tyre grip would be on offer around the twisting infield loop.

A two-minute lap from Rob Austin was soon replaced by Tom Onslow-Cole, and his late 1:58 effort was beaten first by Matt Neal and then Jason Plato, who had taken seven tenths away from the BMW.

Neal's team mate Shedden, lucky to be running at all after his earlier fire, stopped on the circuit at the entrance to Coram, causing a red flag. The car managed to get going again but the decision had already been taken, so the drivers were given an enforced break before the final two-thirds of the session were run.

Neal immediately began to set personal best times but they weren't enough to make a significant impression on the gap to Plato, however Dave Newsham managed to slot his Vectra between the pair.

Plato's time was bettered, however, by Frank Wrathall and with Daniel Welch taking third, the track was clearly getting faster. Newsham then retook third place but Plato was responding with a fast middle sector time, taking provisional pole by four tenths.

Plato's next lap was just one thousandth of a second slower, and the rest had just eight minutes left to put up a challenge to the MG. An improvement from a competitive Adam Morgan had left championship leader Neal in sixth place, and with Shedden still in the garage with the Honda team scratching their heads, it was looking like the works Civics' worst qualifying performance of the year so far.

Wrathall then lapped within two hundredths of Plato's time to retake the head of the field, as Newsham came within a similar distance of the MG. With  two minutes left, Neal pitted and rejoined but with no time left to post a lap, he could only watch as Andrew Jordan took his sixth place on the grid.

Plato's final effort saw him run wide, which handed pole position to Wrathall. Newsham kept third place despite Jordan's last lap that yielded fourth. Morgan and Welch will both start ahead of Neal, who ended up in seventh, ahead of Lea Wood, Onslow-Cole and Jeff Smith. Three Civics in the top ten will give the works team little consolation as Shedden will start from the back, whilst Mat Jackson qualified the new Focus in 16th place. five behind his team mate.

Race one will take place at 12:00 midday tomorrow.

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Qualifying

1, Frank Wrathall, Dynojet, Toyota Avensis, 1:57.595s
2, Jason Plato, MG Racing, MG6, +0.015s
3, Dave Newsham, Team ES Racing, Vauxhall Vectra, +0.054s
4, Andrew Jordan, Pirtek, Honda Civic, +0.538s
5, Adam Morgan, Speedworks, Toyota Avensis, +0.610s
6, Daniel Welch, Welch Motorsport, Proton Persona, +0.668s
7, Matt Neal, Honda Racing, Honda Civic, +0.957s
8, Lea Wood, BINZ Racing, Vauxhall Vectra, +1.104s
9, Tom Onslow-Cole, eBay Motors, BMW 320si, +1.286s
10, Jeff Smith, Pirtek Racing, Honda Civic, +1.620s

Raceday tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Snetterton on 11/12 August are available on the gate for £30, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.