Bushell had been pushing for pole in the closing stages of the session when he slithered head on into a barrier at Lodge Corner. In a remarkable recovery though his car bounced back off the barrier with enough momentum to clear a gravel trap and he was able to keep going with minimal damage.
On his very last lap he then was able to punch in a time good enough to deny his Pyro team-mate Nathan Harrison a maiden pole position by just 34 thousandths of a second (see times below).
Jack McCarthy was another to improve in the final moments to take third behind Harrison, thus ensuring a Pyro 1-2-3 at the front of the grid for this afternoon’s race – round seven of the 2017 season.
On second best times, which decide the grid order for race two (tomorrow), it was the same order again – Bushell ahead of Harrison and McCarthy.
Adding to Bushell’s joy, WDE Motorsport pair Paul Rivett and Lee Pattison – the two drivers closest to him at the top of the table – were well down by their standards. Rivett will start the two races from 12th and then tenth; Pattison was 16th and 13th after going off the track early on in the session.
Bushell commented: “Everything has worked out perfectly there but I’m quite fortunate – when I went off the tyre barrier actually acted like a spring and gave my car momentum as it bounced backwards off it. I was quick to grab reverse gear and keep going out of the gravel – if I’d stopped in there I’d have been stuck for good.”
Harrison said: “That was so close – I really thought I’d got my first pole but you can never discount Mike. Still I’m very happy with a pair of seconds and being on the front row of the grid – and I feel happy in any conditions, wet or dry.”
Like Bushell, McCarthy also fell off at Lodge Corner during qualifying but was not so fortunate – his car nosing into the back of Max Coates’s Ciceley machine which had already gone off there! Both cars need repairs ahead of this afternoon’s race…
Meanwhile Aaron Thompson – like Harrison and McCarthy new to the UK Clio Cup this year – sparkled on slick tyres in drizzly conditions early on and for a while was fastest of all with a time that ultimately was good enough for fourth position on race one’s grid.
Completing the top six on the race one grid were PP Motorsport/Westbourne’s James Colburn and DRM’s Daniel Rowbottom. Colburn was then fourth fastest for race two’s grid ahead of Westbourne’s James Dorlin and Rowbottom with another sixth.
There were some strong performances elsewhere in the challenging conditions, namely by Ciceley’s Luke Reade and Jade Edwards – seventh and tenth on race one’s grid. Like Harrison and Thompson, these are their best qualifying results to date…
An early off from which he could not recover left SDR’s Shayne Deegan right at the back of both grids while Nicolas Hamilton – making a return to the championship with WDE – qualified 17th and then 15th fastest.
CLICK HERE for full qualifying results for both races.
Top ten, Qualifying, Round 7, Oulton Park
1. Mike Bushell (Team Pyro), 1m42.247s
2. Nathan Harrison (Team Pyro), +0.034s
3. Jack McCarthy (Team Pyro), +0.273s
4. Aaron Thompson (JamSport Racing), +0.663s
5. James Colburn (PP/Westbourne), +0.680s
6. Daniel Rowbottom (DRM), +1.155s
7. Luke Reade (Ciceley M'sport), +1.158s
8. Max Coates (Ciceley M'sport), +1.496s
9. James Dorlin (Westbourne), +1.583s
10. Jade Edwards (Ciceley M'sport), +1.793s
Top ten, Qualifying, Round 8, Oulton Park
1. Mike Bushell (Team Pyro), 1m42.298
2. Nathan Harrison (Team Pyro), +0.212s
3. Jack McCarthy (Team Pyro), +0.347s
4. James Colburn (PP/Westbourne), +01.250s
5. James Dorlin (Westbourne), +1.546s
6. Daniel Rowbottom (DRM), +1.571s
7. Max Coates (Ciceley M'sport), +1.685s
8. Aaron Thompson (JamSport Racing), +1.838s
9. Dan Zelos (WDE M'sport), +1.881s
10. Paul Rivett (WDE M'sport), +2.047s