SAM WELLER EXTENDS ADVANTAGE WITH SILVERSTONE POLE
Points leader Sam Weller extended his advantage at the head of the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE standings after topping the times in qualifying at Silverstone.
The Hybrid Tune driver was able to dip below the previous qualifying record as the JCW field returned to the circuit after a year away, with a time of 1:01.030s proving to be quick enough to secure his place at the head of the field.
A second pole of 2022 also meant an additional six bonus points to provide Weller with a lead of 40 points over Jack Mitchell, who saw his session hampered by gearbox issues.
“It’s a shame for Jack but I don’t think I could have done a better job there,” Weller said. “I got a good tow on my first run and I couldn’t it, but I didn’t expect to come here and put it on pole so this is a bit of a pleasant surprise.
“I’m in the best position on the grid and also in the points, so I’m feeling quite relaxed. I still have two drop scores to my name so I need to keep my head and know I don’t need to do anything silly to try and win races at this stage – although obviously I’ll be going for the win.”
Weller’s closest rival in the session would prove to be new team-mate Matthew George – who steps up into a race seat this weekend from his usual role as team driver coach.
George, better known for his exploits in GT racing, would end a tenth of a second behind on the timesheets to put himself in a strong position for his series debut where he will run as a guest entry ineligible for points.
“It was unexpected to get the chance to come in this weekend as I’ve not driven the MINI before or raced on this layout – so it’s a weekend of firsts,” he said. “Sam did the same stellar job as usual and it’s nice to be there alongside him on the front row of the grid.
“Hopefully we can have some good battles and get a good result for the team. I’m here to gain experience to help the team and being with Sam at the front is great as it means he has a friend up there but we’ll see how things go and the aim is just to get the best result for Hybrid Tune.”
Alex Denning heads the second row for Graves Motorsport as he bids to recover from his DNF in the final race of the weekend at Snetterton and it’s a similar story for Ronan Pearson – who was quickest of the EXCELR8 Motorsport line-up in fourth spot.
Jason Lockwood was fifth quickest ahead of another newcomer in the shape of Hybrid Tune’s Mazda MX-5 graduate Sam Smith, with Graves pair Lewis Brown and Max Coates on row four. Joe Tanner and Mitchell then rounded out the top ten.
Mitchell had spent much of the session sitting in the pits as a result of the problems on his JW Bird Motorsport-run car, but admitted that he had always expected the Silverstone session to be a tough one.
“I knew coming into the weekend that we were on the back foot here as this a power circuit and we were suffering with straight line speed a bit,” he said. “The balance wasn’t quite right either and then we had an issue where I couldn’t go up through the gears but I think that was the best we could have done and we need to try and find more time.
“Points make prizes in this game and I think realistically, we’re in a battle for second place.”
Showing the close nature of the times, the top 19 drivers on the grid would be covered by less than a second and included Harry Nunn – who enjoyed his best qualifying result of the year to date following his move to EXCELR8.