It was a day of mixed emotions for Team Aon in Slovakia today after the team showed front running pace in todays qualifying session at the Slovakiaring. Tom Chilton did well to make it through to Q2 and qualified in 11th place despite limited running in this mornings practice session. It was team mate James Nash who suffered the real misfortune though despite front running pace in both practice and qualifying. Nash put in a superb performance to qualify in fourth place but a minor technical infringement means that the British racer will now start from 14th following a ten place grid penalty.
With no on track running on Friday, the drivers had to wait until Saturday morning for their first taste of the Slovakiaring. Having never driven around the circuit before, the playing field was levelled for everyone as they began to learn the track and make changes to the cars ahead of the all-important afternoon qualifying session. The two morning sessions saw Nash quickly get on the pace, finishing both free practice one and two with the third fastest time. Various issues limited Chiltons track time, and the Team Aon man had only completed a handful of laps before this afternoons qualifying session got underway.
As both Nash and Chilton took to the track for their first flying laps in this afternoons qualifying session, the Team Aon drivers immediately made their positions clear, putting their cars within the top ten in the opening minutes.
After completing their first stint both Nash and Chilton made their way back to the pits for new tyres as well as a couple of quick changes to the car. Nashs next flying lap was quick from the outset and after setting the fastest middle sector overall, he placed his Ford Focus second on the timing screens a position he would retain until the chequered flag.
Chilton meanwhile exited the pits a couple of laps later than this team mate and began his next stint, but wasnt able to improve on his first run and took the decision to return to the pits. A red flag soon after called a halt to proceedings, prematurely ending the session with Chilton lying in twelfth and Nash still second.
With both drivers in the top 12, both Nash and Chilton made it through to Q2 for the second part of qualifying.
The quick 10 minute Q2 session saw both Nash and Chilton get just one flying lap to better their qualifying positions. Finding space on the track with six minutes of the session remaining, Nash and Chilton had placed their Arena run Ford Focus Touring Cars in fourth and tenth respectively with Chilton holding the second race pole. However a lap from DAste in the final minute of the session frustratingly dropped Chilton down to eleventh. Nashs time meanwhile was still good enough for an impressive fourth pace on the grid.
Heartbreak was soon to follow for Nash however, as his car was later found to have failed scrutineering due to a minor technical infringement. Despite his impressive performance, Nash will now be faced with a tough fight through the field 14th place.
Speaking about the teams session, team principal Mike Earle said, Its a hugely frustrating day for the team and very regrettable that James has lost out on a fourth place grid slot. He did a fantastic job today and has lost out due to a technical infringement that gave him no performance benefit on track. We believe that the infringement has occurred due to an issue with the new suspension which we ran for the first time today.
Tom showed great potential, but he started qualifying on the back foot due to lost time in practice. We know we have the pace to be at the front, but obviously its going to be a tough weekend now. Theres plenty or racing action to come though, and anything could happen.