James Cole was delighted to have landed his and his United Autosports team’s maiden top ten qualifying position, ahead of the final three races of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season at Brands Hatch.
Cole’s participation in the event had been thrown into doubt at the previous round at Silverstone, where he and Robb Holland clashed for a second time this season, causing significant damage to his Toyota Avensis.
That required a rebuild of the car’s shell, and despite the team completing the job in time for the event, Cole remained in his garage during yesterday’s first practice session, before running in the car for the first time in second practice.
Qualifying was a different story, however, as a late call saw Cole take to a drying track at the right time, to set the seventh fastest time before an incident for Dave Newsham brought the session to an early end.
Speaking to TouringCars.Net, the 26-year-old admitted that while the on track conditions had played into his hands, he was thrilled to be starting at the sharp end of the grid.
“It was a good lap in changeable conditions,” beamed Cole. “The rain was the great equaliser and they’re conditions I feel comfortable in.
“I managed to get the first top ten for United Autosports and I was the top Toyota so the team are really pleased.”
And given the difficulties that he and the team had faced in the build up to the event, as well as during the session itself, the result was that extra bit sweeter for the Liverpool-based driver.
“It’s fantastic, especially after Silverstone. There was a time earlier on in the week when we weren’t sure if we’d be here or not.
“We were still building the car in FP1 so we didn’t do any laps, FP2 was more of a shakedown and then as I say qualifying was great. My radio wasn’t working so I didn’t really know where I was so it was a late move to put the slicks on – contact with the team was minimal.
“I just got that one lap before the red flag came out and luckily it was a good one.”
While the result was a boost for Cole and his team, he hastened to add that there was still plenty of work for him to do in today’s races, but hoped he could repay his United Autosports team for their efforts over the course of the year.
“It’s just nice to be at the sharper end of the field – it’s taken a whole year to get here so let’s hope we can stay there. Our package isn’t 100% there yet but this is a great way to thank the team for their hard work this year. I’ve had two accidents that have required rebuilt shells and that’s never good to go through, it’s never good for the team to do that – you’ll always be on the back foot so hopefully now this is the start of some good luck.”
“Qualifying is one thing, racing is another. The pace does peter out a little bit but it’s Brands, it’s the last round of the season and there are changeable conditions – it’s going to be spicy.”