We didn’t quite get a full grid out as Michael Epps Team Hard Avensis failed to appear as he has mechanical issues. But the four brand new Subaru Levorgs all made it out for their first proper laps since they were built. (They were allowed a brief shakedown test in a specially arranged session on Friday evening.
Tom Ingram was the quickest driver of the session, a tenth of a second ahead of Matt Neal in the newly orange Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda team. Tom was the quickest driver at the same round at the beginning of last season but this season’s times were over two seconds a lap quicker although this is partly due to improved conditions, damp last year compared to a dry circuit today.
Rob Collard, who often goes well at Brands Hatch was third in his Team JCT600 with GardX BMW. Ashely Sutton, making his championship debut for MG Racing was an excellent fourth around a hundredth of a second ahead of Sam Tordoff, Collard’s team mate. Defending champion Gordon Shedden was next up ahead of Jack Goff who was taken over the WSR run Team IHG Rewards Club BMW driven last season by Andy Priaulx.
Josh Cook was next up driving for MG Racing for the first time after moving over from Power Maxed racing. Andrew Jordan took ninth and was the fastest Motorbase car in his Pirtek Liveried machine with Adam Morgan rounding out the top ten in his Wix Racing Mercedes.
Jeff Smith, who has been quick in winter testing for Eurotech was just outside the top ten in eleventh but his time was just four tenths of a second off Ingram’s fastest lap.
Rob Austin was thirteenth for Handy with Aron Smith taking new team BKR to fourteenth. Jake Hill was fifteenth for Team Hard also knowna as RCIB Insurance Racing. (Confusingly two teams have RCIB insurance in their Full team name as MG Racing RCIB Insurance are also backed by the insurance firm. Their name also appears on the BKR cars!)
The session was briefly red flagged after an off for Chris Smiley in the TLC Racing Toyota Avensis (run by Team Hard) while AMD Tuning’s Ollie Jackson had several trips through the paddock hill gravel but managed to keep himself from getting beached!
The new Subaru team understandably were not front runners, with the cars not having driven in anger before the team need to work on setups to get them to their potential. Colin Turkington was the best of them in seventeenth with James Cole in twenty fifth, Jason Plato in twenty seventh and Team boss Warren Scott was thirty first and last of the four. Cole completed the most laps with 35, Plato 17, Turkington 14 and Scott just 7. There are likely to be teething troubles for the all new team with even the engine being a totally new Subaru Boxer unit, built by Mountune. Expect them to move up the field as the weekend progresses.
The other headline grabber from media day, Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher was twenty ninth but he only got nine laps in and has barely driven the car before today. He has a strong record in club racing and so should progress well as he learns the car.
Full times are available from the championship’s official timer TSL timing from here; By Marc Waller