‘Speech­less’ Cole has week­end to remember

Southport Visiter - - Visiter Life - BY STEVE HIRST

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!”

Jakob Ebrey Pho­tog­ra­phy

South­port mo­tor sports star James Cole cel­e­brates tak­ing his first qual­i­fy­ing pole.

Jakob Ebrey Pho­tog­ra­phy

South­port’s James Cole leads the field on his way to his first BTCC vic­tory at Rock­ing­ham in Northants.

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