Tom Ovenden made the ideal start to the weekend at Croft after scoring a second pole of the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE season.

Ovenden headed into the weekend sitting second in the points – after dropped scores – to Alex Solley, but was aware of the fact that his title rival was carrying a grid penalty as a result of an incident involving the pair last time out at Thruxton.

The EXCELR8 driver was the early pace-setter in the half-hour-long session and at one stage, had a buffer of a quarter of a second over the pack behind before an improvement from Solley saw him edge ahead with ten minutes left to run.

Ovenden however had yet to complete his final run in the session and he duly reclaimed his place at the front by a margin of two-tenths of a second – scoring the added six championship points in the process to edge ahead of Solley in the standings.

“It was an awesome session and the car felt great to drive,” Ovenden said. “We’ve seen in the past that there are groups that develop in the races so to be at the front is important in that sense – as are the extra points.

“I knew I had to put another lap in at the end when I slipped down to P2, so to go a few tenths quicker and grab pole position is really good.”

Solley would end up with the second fastest time, but the eight place grid drop imposed at Thruxton will leave the Graves Motorsport driver to line-up back in P10 for the opening race and with work to do to try and reclaim his advantage in the points.

“We fastest lap for a while but I expected others to take it,” he said. “It would have been nice to get ‘pole’ but we know we have the pace in the car to try and come through in the race.

“It will be tougher than using the tow at Thruxton so we’ll see how things go, but I can work with P10.”

Solley’s penalty promoted Max Hall onto the front row of the grid as the rookie maintained his impressive qualifying record this season, with the Westbourne Motorsport driver having the best average heading into the half-way point of the season.

Hall could possibly have gone quicker had he not been one of a number of drivers to encounter traffic in the final sector of the lap as the 31 cars entered this weekend jostled for position, with Nicky Taylor set to line up in third spot.

Luca Marinoni Osborne will line up fourth as he looks to build on his maiden podium finish last time out, with the EXCELR8 driver one of a number of late improvers who climbed up the order, with the top six on the grid rounded out by Jack Byrne and Alex Keens.

As with Marinoni Osborne directly ahead, that marked the best qualifying result of the campaign to date for Keens – with neither driver having previously made it into the top ten.

Harry Hickton will line up seventh in his new car ahead of another driver to set a new personal best in the shape of Ashley Gregory, with Sam Gornall and Solley then rounding out the top ten.

Elsewhere, the returning Jacob Heap was 26th quickest, with Paul Manning down in 28th after a troublesome Friday saw him lose track time as the team battled gremlins with his car.