SAM SMITH GRABS POLE FOR BRANDS HATCH FINALE
Sam Smith became the man to end the Dan Zelos pole run after topping the times in the final Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE qualifying session of the season at Brands Hatch.
Zelos had grabbed pole for every event so far but it was Hybrid Tune racer Smith who would emerge from a somewhat chaotic session affected by multiple stoppages with the fastest time.
The first stoppage would be as a result of an issue for Nelson King out on the GP loop, with Dominic Wheatley then going off at the final corner to bring out the second red flag. Offs for both Marlo Cordell and Billy Hardy would ensure an early conclusion to the action.
Smith’s quick lap would come just seconds before the final stoppage, and allowed him to edge ahead of Zelos, who had looked set to maintain his astonishing record.
As it was, a time of 1:35.432s saw Smith top the times by a tenth of a second to grab the six bonus points and out himself at the head of the field for his second weekend back after his accident at Donington Park at the start of the year.
“My head wasn’t in a good place at Silverstone but the team have helped to get my mind on track again and that is the end result,” he said. “I’ve come in with a different this weekend and it’s nice to show that I still have what it takes to be at the front.
“I just need to tape up the mirrors and get away off the line, and then I’ll be fine!”
Zelos will line up in second spot, with title rival Will Orton lining up directly behind in fourth; the pair being split on the times by guest racer Spencer Stevenson.
Should Zelos finish ahead of Orton in the opening race, then he will wrap up a second championship title with Orton needing to outscore the EXCELR8 driver by at least six points to take the title battle into race two.
Returning duo Nathan Harrison and Sam Weller – neither of whom can score points – will share the third row of the grid, with Bradley Gravett and Wheatley rounding out the top eight.
Wheatley’s car is now undergoing repairs ahead of the race as he bids to try and close the gap to Jamie Osborne in the Graduate Cup. with Osborne qualifying back in 13th.
Newcomer Max Hall will line up for his JCW debut in 14th place.