COOPER BATTLE BURSTS BACK INTO LIFE AT THRUXTON
Tom Ovenden took full advantage of EXCELR8’s decision to play the team game in qualifying at Thruxton to grab his maiden pole position in the series.
Ovenden emerged at the head of the field following a typically frenetic session that was impacted by an issue for Brendan Fitzgerald early on that saw his car drop fluid at the final chicane.
The early stages of the session had seen Ovenden leading the way as the only driver to break the 1:32s mark before an improvement from Charlie Mann saw him move up into second spot – a quarter of a second behind.
With a number of drivers out of position however, Fitzgerald’s loss of fluid would suddenly leave the rest of the field struggling with reduced grip heading into the chicane – with Tyler Lidsey, Jonny Sargeant and Nicky Taylor amongst those to have moments heading into the corner during the following laps.
A spin for newcomer Sam Baker that saw him collect one of the trackside tyre stacks would then lead to a red flag so the tyres could be removed, with the fluid on the circuit also being dressed at the same to improve conditions.
A ten minute battle for pole would follow, with Ovenden working with team-mates Matt Hammond, Nathan Edwards and Sargeant to improve his time still further and cement his place at the head of the field.
That was despite the fact that he would end the session minus a rear wing on his car.
“Thruxton is a tricky circuit for qualifying but we worked well as team-mates after the red flag and that helped me get the time,” he said. “Getting the tow is key to a quick lap here and it all worked perfectly.
“I’ve no idea what happened with the rear wing though, as I didn’t even notice it was missing!”
Hammond would end up with the second best time, having improved enough on his final flying lap to edge ahead of Mann by just 0.001s.
“Tom is a quick lad and put in a good lap,” he said. “We worked well as a team to push ourselves up the field but the race will be difficult as it’s hard to get away. We’ll see how it goes, but the key thing is not to do anything stupid.”
Mann meanwhile was pleased enough with third spot as he seeks to try and push for a first win of the campaign at his home circuit.
“We got pipped at the end but I’m happy with P3 as it was chaos at times out there,” he said. “This year hasn’t gone how we wanted it to so far, so I’m going into the opening race feeling really determined about fighting for a podium finish.”
Mann will be joined on the second row of the grid by Oliver Meadows after he improved late on to set the fourth best time, with Lidsey recovering from his earlier moment to secure his best result of the campaign to date in fifth.
Points leader Nelson King spent a large part of the session languishing in the low teens before moving up the order to post the sixth best time, with Lee Pearce, Jack Byrne, Nicky Taylor and Baker rounding out the top ten.
Joe Wiggin in eleventh was the final driver within a second of pole in eleventh.
Amongst those with work to do in the opening race at Louie Capozzoli, winner at Thruxton earlier in the year, after he could only manage 13th best, with Alex Solley struggling to 20th. Lap record holder Alfie Glenie will line up back in 22nd.