‘Speechless’ Cole has weekend to remember
JAMES COLE may have been “speechless” but he let his driving do the talking when he claimed both his first-ever Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship qualifying pole position and race win in dominating style at the Rockingham International Speedway last weekend.
His emphatic maiden tin-top win in his Adrian Flux Subaru/Team BMR BTCC Racing Team Subaru Levorg GT came less than 24 hours after he made history by becoming the first BTCC driver to put a rear wheel drive car on pole at the 1.9 mile Northampton circuit.
The 29-year-old former single-seater champion from Southport had continued the outstanding form he has been enjoying since the summer break and is now a winner in the what is regarded as the leading motor racing series in the country.
As he took the chequered flag 2.5 seconds ahead of his Team BMR teammate Ash Sutton after a stunning drive in which he led the 16 lap first race of the day race from start to finish, Cole, winner of the 2009 British Formula Ford Champion and runner-up in the National Class of the British Formula Three International Series in 2010, was clearly overwhelmed.
“I don’t want to say I’m speechless again, but I am,” he said.
“The race couldn’t have gone any more perfectly. I knew the front-wheel drives would be quick at the start.
“It was about getting away well and holding them off until they started to struggle.”
He added: “Lights to flag. What more can you ask?”
After making a superb start, Cole had controlled the race throughout and, after half distance, had extended his lead lap by lap.
At one stage in a faultless drive he was three seconds clear of his nearest challenger at the time Jack Goff in his Eurotech Racing Honda.
As ITV4 BTCC commentator Tim Harvey declared: “James has found his mojo in the team. And he has pedigree winning the Formula Ford title.”
Race two and Cole was back on pole but this time carrying his race winning ballast of 75 kilos and using the hard option tyre. Although not confirmed, but possibly with the drivers’ championship in mind by the team, Cole, after making another good getaway appeared to allow team-mate Sutton, currently heading the title chase, through into the lead and then back up the howling pack behind.
It then turned out to be a bruising encounter for our first race victor who was pushed down down to seventh and then unceremoniously bumped further back to 13th where he was destined to finish, 18.466 seconds behind Sutton who collected his sixth win of the year.
After the excitement of qualifying and the victorious start to race day, the final race provided the only real anti-climax.
Cole’s day was over after the opening lap when he found himself back in the pits after being involved in one of several midfield race skirmishes.
Signs of an amazing weekend for Cole, whose recent sequence of excellent form had included four fifth-place race finishes in a row came after what appeared to be a quiet start and finishing 24th in the first free practice session and then 26th in the second.
But come qualifying and Cole produced a fantastic lap that earned him his first-ever BTCC pole since joining the series back in 2013.
Not only was it a real stunner but it was also the first-ever qualifying pole spot for a rear-wheel drive car at Rockingham. And the secret of his success?
“We saved all our new tyres for qualifying.”
Suddenly all attention was on a clearly surprised Southport racer who has been fighting hard all year to get towards the front of the grid in qualifying.
Cole declared: “I did not expect that at all and until I was told at the end of the session I had no idea!
“I didn‘t want my team to tell me – amazing job by them, this is fantastic. I’m genuinely speechless!
“Given how we were in FP1 and FP2, if we got everything right for qualifying I was expecting to maybe get into the top ten but didn’t think we could do that!
With his new-found status as a BTCC winner, expect Cole, who has now moved up to 15th in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship, to be back at the sharp end of the grid at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, for the penultimate rounds of this years BTCC series on the weekend of September 16-17.
Speechless he may have been after joining the the elite ranks of BTCC victors last Sunday but James managed to sum up his amazing weekend in a tweet: “Winner Winner!!! What a feeling!”
Southport motor sports star James Cole celebrates taking his first qualifying pole.
Southport’s James Cole leads the field on his way to his first BTCC victory at Rockingham in Northants.