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BTCC Donington: Rowbottom takes pole as Sutton penalised

Dan Rowbottom claimed the first British Touring Car Championship pole position of the season at Donington Park, although it was team-mate Ash Sutton who set the quickest time.

Dan Rowbottom, NAPA Racing

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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Three-time champion Sutton, starting his second season with the Motorbase Performance Ford Focus squad, led the way in the regular 30-minute qualifying session from Rowbottom to the tune of 0.135 seconds.

But in the top 10 shootout, Sutton fell foul of new track limits regulations due to be implemented this summer by governing body Motorsport UK, but which BTCC organiser TOCA elected to introduce from the start of its season.

Sutton had gone 0.1s quicker than his Q1 time, but that lap was disallowed and appeared to leave him facing a ninth place start.

But the Motorbase squad fitted a fresh pair of slick Goodyears to the front of Sutton’s Ford - he had time for just one flying lap and went purple in the long second sector - but he lost time through the chicane and finished up 0.041s adrift of Rowbottom.

“It’s brilliant,” said Rowbottom, who is contesting his first race weekend since joining Motorbase. “That’s the result of a winter of hard work.

“We’ve kind of set the bar now, haven’t we? The team have given us a good car, so as long as we don’t trip over each other we’ll be OK.”

Sutton admitted: “I just played it safe through the last chicane to get a time on the board, and I played it too safe.

“In Q1 I played it safe and did a sensible lap that was good enough for pole [and was quicker than Rowbottom’s Q2 effort by 0.028s], but then in Q2 I pushed a bit more and found the new track-limit rule…

“I’m kicking myself, but it’s a mega start to the championship – the car is on rails.”

 Colin Turkington, WSR BMW

Colin Turkington, WSR BMW

Photo by: WSR

Jake Hill was third fastest in the best of the West Surrey Racing-run BMW 330e M Sport machinery, just 0.100s off Rowbottom’s pole, thanks to a final lap that dislodged team-mate Colin Turkington, with whom he will share the second row.

Dan Cammish made it three Motorbase Fords in the top five and will line up alongside reigning champion Tom Ingram – the Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N was another to improve on the final lap, but did not move up any positions.

Josh Cook rebounded from a tough free practice to qualify his One Motorsport Honda Civic Type R seventh, ahead of Adam Morgan’s WSR BMW and Andrew Watson, who did a fine job to make the top 10 shootout on his BTCC debut at the wheel of a Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra.

The other driver to make it to the top 10, Ricky Collard, did not turn a lap in Q2 thanks to a fuel leak on his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla.

Collard’s team-mate Rory Butcher was the highest-profile contender not to make it to Q2, and he will start 13th behind impressive debutant Ronan Pearson (Excelr8 Hyundai) and Dan Lloyd (Team Hard Cupra).

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