With both of their Toyotas in the top seven on the grid for tomorrow’s opening race of the BTCC’s Scottish weekend, independent Avensis racers Frank Wrathall and Paul O’Neill enjoyed a strong showing in official qualifying at Knockhill.
This afternoon’s session started damp and became progressively wetter towards the end, but both Wrathall in his Dynojet Racing Toyota and O’Neill in his Speedworks Motorsport Avensis posted good times early on to secure their slots.
Frank’s 57.572s lap of the 1.27-mile mountain-top circuit earned him fifth on the grid, just 0.4s off the pace of pole man Jason Plato’s MG. O’Neill claimed seventh with his 57.650s best lap, with his team-mate Adam Morgan 13th fastest on 58.036s. Less than a second covered the top 14.
Wrathall said he was happy with his performance: “A wet qualifying session is the most difficult because it’s a case of being in the right place at the right time and on the right tyres, so it’s always a tricky one. I’m pleased with how the Avensis felt – I could drive it how I wanted. I think when I did my quickest lap I was only a tenth off pole. To be in with a shout is always good. Fifth is not a bad starting point for tomorrow: qualifying is so important around here because it isn’t the easiest circuit for overtaking.
“The Toyota felt better in the wet than it did in the dry, so if it could rain again tomorrow, please? I wasn’t too disappointed to see it turn very wet…”
O’Neill, who is deputising for Tony Hughes in the Hughes Safety Showers-backed Toyota while its regular pilot is on business elsewhere, enjoyed his qualifying: “I’m made up with that – that was cool. I could have been fifth or sixth… I was up by about two or three tenths on one lap but someone went off and there was a red flag, and then there was the downpour. The Toyota was amazing; Speedworks did me proud. I have no other words than to say it was great.”
Morgan set his time early on and it was good enough for eighth place, but Adam failed to improve on it in the crucial minutes before the heavens opened and he was relegated to 13th as others improved. His session came to a close with light contact with the barriers at Duffus Dip.
Speedworks boss Christian Dick was encouraged by his drivers’ performances: “Paul is seventh, and given that we have had no wet test running that is good. Adam had an off towards the end of the session but the damage is not too bad, so we’ll be back out fighting in the races.”
Tomorrow’s Knockhill rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship are scheduled for 1145, 1415 and 1705, and will be screened live in HD on ITV4 and streamed on the web via www.itv.com/btcc