Matt Hammond maintained his astonishing qualifying record in the 2022 Quaife MINI CHALLENGE Trophy with a third pole position of the season at Donington Park.

The EXCELR8 Motorsport driver topped the times for the second successive meeting with a new qualifying lap record, allowing him to outpace championship leader Nelson King and continue a run that has seen him qualify on the front row for every meeting bar one this year.

Hammond would spend the vast majority of the session on top of the times, hitting the front on his second fastest lap and then gradually improving over the following laps to eventually grab top spot with a lap of 1:55.111s.

That allowed him to set a new qualifying benchmark for the Coopers as they returned to the full Donington GP line-up for the first time since 2017, with Hammond setting two laps that would have been good enough to grab P1.

“I think the championship is Nelson’s now if I’m being honest so we need to make sure we are ahead of the rest,” he said. “It’s nice to get pole and maintain my qualifying average, and it sets us up for tomorrow.

“This is a circuit where I’ve always gone well and I like circuits like this where you have to carry the momentum, but there are new pressures when it comes to the races. Cars will be a lot closer together and people will have a lunge and you have to keep it clean and try to get away.

“If we can do that, then it will help us in our bid to wrap up P2.”

King would end up just under four-tenths of a second back from Hammond on the timing sheets going into Sunday’s three races, where he could provisionally secure the title if results go his way.

However, he insisted that he wasn’t thinking about the title and was focused simply on trying to get ahead of Hammond to add to the nine wins scored so far this season.

“I’m not really thinking about the title, I just want to have fun,” he said. “Matt was pretty rapid in front of me when I was following him in the session so I’ll need to up my game tomorrow if we’re going to fight him for the win.”

Joe Wiggin was third quickest with his best qualifying result of the year to date in his Pantera Carpentry-backed PeformanceTek car, despite being one of a number of drivers to lose a time for track limits infringements.

Wiggin – on a run of ten straight top ten finishes – was able to recover from that to edge out Tom Ovenden for third, with the pair split by just 0.012s on the second row of the grid.

“I got caught out by cold tyres on my first lap when taking a risk, but I knew we could do the time,” he said. “We were quick in the wet yesterday in testing and the weather forecast tomorrow is questionable, so we’re in a good position.

“I think this is my best chance to get a win so far this season as Nelson has to think about the championship and hopefully the heavens open. If I get a sniff of a win – then I’m going to try and take it!”

Behind Ovenden, Charlie Mann and Nicky Taylor set the fifth and sixth best times, although Taylor will drop two places on the grid as a result of a penalty handed out following race three at Snetterton last time out.

That drops Taylor back down to eighth, with Alex Solley and Jack Byrne both making up a spot; Solley being the final driver to have lapped with a second of Hammond’s pole time.

Alfie Glenie and Tyler Lidsey then rounded out the top ten.

The session wouldn’t pass without drama, with a number of drivers suffering trips across the grass on the exit of the Old Hairpin – including LDR’s James Parker.

Jonathan Sargeant and Ben Jenkins would also hit trouble, with Sargeant going off into the gravel at McLeans and Jenkins spinning at the Fogarty Esses on their final runs.

All three races will take place on Sunday, with live coverage on the BARC YouTube channel.