Stephen Jelley says his qualifying pace shown in the British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill was ‘legitimately good’ after the Team Parker Racing driver secured his first front row start since the 2008 season finale.
Jelley emerged as the best of the BMW drivers in qualifying at Knockhill, missing out on pole position to Honda’s Dan Cammish by a mere 0.023 seconds.
Having been on the pace since practice – where he was 11th in FP1 and sixth in FP2 – Jelley admitted that finding his rhythm early on had allowed him to push harder and harder throughout the day.
“We’ve been quick all weekend and seeing that we were quick in FP1 on old Rockingham tyres bode well early on,” said Jelley to TouringCars.Net. “We made a few little tweaks to the car and put on a new set of tyres and we were up there even more.
“Then we found put a bit too much fuel in and then there was a bit of weight to come out for qualifying.
“The car was good and once I’d bagged a top ten time I could really push on a bit and risk a bit more.
“We were legitimately good – even our laps at the end would have been good for a top ten, so it was really satisfying.”
The Team Parker driver also managed to out-qualify the works-backed BMWs, despite running with an older-specification engine.
The former Porsche and GT racer believes that the nature of the circuit means that his car’s disadvantages are less prevalent around Knockhill than at other circuits, allowing him to put in a more competitive showing.
“I must have just had massive balls over the top of that chicane,” joked Jelley. “We don’t run the same engine, so we don’t have the same level of grunt that they do, but it doesn’t seem to count here.
“We’re still down in the speed traps, but we’ve got good throttle control and the [gear] ratios seem to match up nicely to the corners. It’s good and driveable, and you can launch it over the kerbs well, so I think that’s it really.”
Given the high chance of rain on Sunday, Jelley admits that there are still a number of unknowns in the circuit, including how the new asphalt handles in wet conditions.
“It looks like its going to be a hurricane tomorrow; it’s going to throw it down with rain, so we’ll just play it one lap at a time and just see what happens.
“No one has tested it [in the rain] and it’s a new track surface, so it could be slippery. There could be standing water where nobody really knows – Rory Butcher is probably the only person that knows.
“It should be fine. It probably takes a couple of laps to get a bit of heat in the front tyres, but we’re good off the line.
“I wasn’t really expecting to be on the front row. The car balance has been good all year – we’ve just struggled on the straights and it’s been frustrating.
“It doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything differently, it just doesn’t really matter here.”