Team Pyro’s Bushell, the king of qualifying in 2016, needed to dig extra deep in the closing moments of the half-hour qualifying session to go to the top of the timesheets.
His best lap time of 51.650 seconds was 0.114s faster than WDE Motorsport’s Lee Pattison in second and almost half a second inside the old qualifying record around Brands’s short Indy circuit set in 2012.
Bushell’s team-mate McCarthy then followed in third with a lap in 51.779s. Indeed the next seven drivers were also under the old record – proof that a switch to Michelin tyres has added to the speeds being achieved by the UK Clio Cup cars in 2017.
The top six were completed by WDE’s Paul Rivett, Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates and SDR Motorsport’s Shayne Deegan.
When it came to second best times – which decide race two’s starting grid – it was Bushell on top again with a lap in 51.798s. The astonishing McCarthy was next up on 51.819s as Pattison, Coates, Rivett and another of his WDE team-mates Dan Zelos then rounded out the top six.
Race one – the opening round of the 2017 season – is later this afternoon (at 16:25). Race two is tomorrow (Sunday) at 13:20 and will be shown live on ITV4. CLICK HERE for the full qualifying times.
Bushell, from nearby Tunbridge Wells and also Champion in 2014, commented: “I’m very happy with my performance and the times I’ve done but I need to convert that into wins and I’ve never won at Brands before.”
Pattison, whose WDE team is also based locally in Ashford, said: “I’m actually not bothered if I win or not – I’ll be going for it but the most important thing is to come away from the first weekend of the year with some decent points.”
McCarthy, another local from Bromley, added: “I was hoping I’d be top ten but perhaps didn’t expect to be quite so high up. I’m used to starting from near the front from my karting days and I feel comfortable being towards the front for my first weekend in cars but let’s see how the races work out.”
Notably WDE’s Paul Streather and JamSport Racing’s Graham Field were unable to participate in qualifying following a nasty collision during Friday’s free practice sessions.
Meanwhile qualifying for Westbourne Motorsport’s James Dorlin and Ciceley’s Jade Edwards ended early when they both hit trouble – Edwards’s car stopped with a mechanical problem and Dorlin damaged his against the barriers exiting Graham Hill Bend.