ALEX DENNING SNARES POLE AT BRANDS HATCH
Alex Denning grabbed his second pole of the season at Brands Hatch to maintain his slender hopes of securing the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE title.
One of five drivers who are still in contention for the crown, Denning emerged on top of what effectively became a 15 minute fight for the additional six bonus points after an early incident involving Geri Racz saw the session halted before any quick times had been set.
Points leader Sam Weller had looked good for pole to strengthen his position at the front before he slipped behind guesting team-mate Matthew George, but – as Weller watched on front he pits – Denning put his Graves Motorsport-run machine into P1 with a new lap record that allowed him to edge out George by 0.014s.
“Pole is great and it was a bit of a ‘win it or bin it’ kind of lap,” Denning said. “I lost a bit of time in the final sector so I know I could have gone quicker, but the six points are the important thing.”
With George alongside on the front row of the grid, Ronan Pearson was the next quickest of the championship contenders with the third fastest time, ending up just 0.058s down on pole to reflect the close nature of the times at the front.
He will be joined on row two by another contender in the shape of Jack Mitchell, who overcame having a quick time removed for track limits to set exactly the same time as the Scot.
“My goal was to out-qualify Sam and we did that – so the first box is ticked,” Pearson admitted. “I really enjoyed that and we got close to pole but just missed out on the extra points, which is a shame. I’m just going to focus on going forwards in the races and I won’t be looking back.”
“It was tricky out on the GP loop but that went better than testing yesterday,” Mitchell added. “It’s always close racing round here and we’re going to have to get stuck in but at least we’re on the pace.”
Points leader Weller had elected to park his car having felt he had done enough to earn at least a front row spot before improvements elsewhere knocked him back to fifth spit, although that still leaves him well placed at the head of the field going into race one early this afternoon.
“I thought I’d done enough to be higher up and I think it was a bit of a mistake not to be out at the end, but I’m happy with that,” he said. “I just need to be there or thereabouts and I am – I’m in the position the others want to be in and we just need to keep doing what we have done all year.”
Lewis Brown set the sixth best time ahead of the final championship contender Jason Lockwood, although a penalty carried over from Silverstone means he has work to do in the opening race from P13 if he is to stay in contention.
“I needed to put the car up in P1 or P2 with the penalty and I did the time but lost it to track limits, which is a massive kick in the teeth when I know what we were capable of,” he said. “The rest of the day is going to be a lot harder now but we’ll just crack on and try to maximise every race.”
Lockwood’s penalty means Sam Smith will instead line up in seventh spot for his second weekend in the series having debuted at Silverstone two weeks ago, with Joe Tanner, Max Coates and outgoing champion Dan Zelos rounding out the top ten.
Race one is scheduled for 13:50 and will air live on ITV.com/btcc