Toyota’s trio of BTCC independents put in a strong showing at Brands Hatch today in the first official qualifying session of the season at Brands Hatch, with Frank Wrathall a delighted eighth on the grid in his brand new Avensis.
Wrathall’s Dynojet Racing crew toiled until 4am in the Brands Hatch pits to ready the car for its competition debut, and were rewarded with steady improvements throughout the day by 25-year-old Frank. Between the first free practice session and qualifying, Wrathall upped his pace by more than a second a lap to claim eighth overall, less than half a second off the pole position time.
His performance was all the more impressive given the lack of testing time available prior to hitting the track in Kent. “We gave the Toyota a brief shakedown on Friday on the way to the circuit,” said Frank. “The first free practice session today was the longest time I had sat in the car.
“I’m made up with eighth. To bring a car here with no testing and to qualify eighth, less than five-tenths off pole… it’s unbelievable. And the good thing is that there is huge room for improvement – it’s not like we can’t go any quicker; there is a lot more to come… It’s a great effort all round by the team, and I can’t thank them enough for all the hard work they have put in.”
Wrathall is hoping for some solid points finishes in tomorrow’s three Brands Hatch races. The first round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is scheduled for 1150, and all the races will be screened live on ITV4.
The championship’s newest recruit, Adam Morgan, is equally pleased after qualifying his Ginetta-backed Speedworks Motorsport Avensis in 13th place on the grid for his BTCC debut. Ciceley Racing driver Morgan, 23, impressed with his steady approach towards free practice and qualifying, improving in every session to end the day only two-tenths down on Wrathall.
“I’m happy with 13th,” said Adam. “The team did a great job, and now I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow. I did my best lap when I was chasing Jason Plato; I thought ‘right, here we go… I have the chance to chase him down’ and I went about five-tenths quicker than I have ever been around here.
“Paddock Hill Bend on the opening lap could be a bit interesting given where I am starting, but I will just have to take things as they come, hold my own and hope for the best.”
Morgan won his place on the 2012 grid thanks to a scholarship scheme from Ginetta. Adam followed in Frank Wrathall’s wheeltracks last season by winning the British sports car manufacturer’s top championship.
Morgan’s Speedworks team-mate Tony Hughes will start from 21st on the grid after a frustrating day with his Toyota Avensis, which refused to start the first session due to an electronics problem. Hughes, 54, then struggled to find a clear lap in qualifying: “I just didn’t get a single clear lap, not one without having to get out of someone’s way or someone coming out of the pits in front of me. So I’m not happy, and I’m not happy to have lost the first session, but that’s the way it goes unfortunately. At least if I start last I can only improve.”