ALEX KEENS SCORES DOUBLE PEMBREY POLE

Alex Keens secured his maiden pole in the Vertu MINI CHALLENGE Trophy after topping the times in qualifying at Pembrey.

Keens, who had a previous qualifying best of second at Brands Hatch last season, emerged on top of a huge three-way battle for top spot as the Cooper field returned to Wales after a year away, with the top three in the session ending up covered by less than a tenth of a second.

Track limits would prove to be an issue across the field as multiple drivers fell foul of running wide out of the opening corner, with Keens amongst those to lose a fast lap as he looked to try and grab pole for the Graves Motorsport squad.

A lap of 1:08.467s set early in the session would ultimately prove to be the benchmark and secured him pole for the third race of the weekend, with his second fastest time being only a fraction of a second slower – therefore ensuring he will also lead the field away at the front in race one.

“I didn’t realise we’d got both poles so that’s great,” he said. “The car felt really good and this is a track I feel comfortable with so we went into the session hopeful of a strong result. The session went well with plenty of clean laps without traffic and that was key.

“It can be easy to overdrive here as you look to squeeze every little bit out of the car and now I’m looking forward to trying to convert it into a result.”

Behind Keens, James Black ensured there was extra reason to cheer for the Graves team as he secured second on the grid for both race one and race three – going close to stealing pole himself.

His fastest lap was only 0.010s down on Keens, although the gap between second fastest laps would be just over a tenth of a second.

“I’m really pleased with second as I can’t qualify to save my life!” he said. “We’ve picked up a 1-2 on the grid for the team so couldn’t really ask for much more, and bring on the racing…”

Current points leader Harry Hickton was only 0.080s behind Black on the times in third spot and will start from the same position in race one thanks to his second best time, with Westbourne Motorsport team-mate Sam Gornall fourth quickest. Gornall will start ahead of Hickton for the second race.

Jamie Keates took fifth for PerformanceTek Racing, with Ronnie Smith once again the leading Rookie driver – as he was at Snetterton – with the sixth best time

A tough session for Alex Solley saw him set the seventh quickest time ahead of Callum Eason, who had a brief trip off at turn one when he ran deep into the corner.

Luca Marinoni Osborne and Harvey Riby then rounded out the top ten.

Returning to the grid this weekend in place of Tommy Watson, Matt Hammond was 14th quickest on the time, with leading Directors Cup runner being Ben Taylor in 17th overall.