On fastest laps which decide the race one grid order, Bushell pipped Burns by just two thousandths of a second – that equals the closest pole position margin ever (between Adam Bonham and Josh Files at Thruxton back in 2012).
Initially it had been another of Pyro’s new young talents, Zak Fulk, who had set the pace around Brands’s full length Grand Prix circuit only for him to then crash out when on an even faster lap while exiting Sheene Curve.
In the closing moments Burns, Bushell, DRM’s Daniel Rowbottom, WDE’s Dan Zelos and Pyro’s Lucas Orrock then all took turns at the top of the timesheets. On the final lap of the session, though, Burns went back to the top with a best lap of one minute, 38.443 seconds.
For ten seconds or so it looked like the 16-year-old would become the youngest driver in history to start a UK Clio Cup race from pole only for Bushell to then flash across the line with an even better time of 1m38.441s.
That shatters the previous qualifying lap record by some six tenths of a second. Indeed the fastest 13 drivers in the session were all under the old mark (set 12 months ago by Ant Whorton-Eales).
Ultimately, with the session done, the top six read Bushell, Burns, Rowbottom, Zelos, Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates and Pyro’s Jack McCarthy – the last two named having right in the hunt for pole throughout as well.
On second best lap times – which decide race two’s grid – the leading positions read Bushell, Burns, Orrock, Zelos, McCarthy and Westbourne Motorsport’s James Dorlin. Notably the gap between Bushell and Burns this time was 0.049s…
Bushell, already crowned Champion but who has not won before on the Brands GP circuit, said: “That’s what I wanted but fair play to Bradley – there’s definitely a new generation to watch out for! But to end the season with 12 poles which I managed last year was what I was after and to do it here means a lot.”
Burns buzzed: “A pole is what I was after but Mike isn’t a double Champion for nothing. We are team mates of course and we can win the teams’ title for Pyro today but I’m definitely going out to win.”
Meanwhile the flying Fulk – consigned to the pit lane after his off – tumbled to tenth and 16th on the two grids respectively and will surely be one to watch in the races. So, too, could be Pyro’s Nathan Harrison… he goes into the races leading the Graduates Cup standings for younger drivers but is under pressure from Dorlin, just 14 points behind with a maximum of 64 in the season finale.
Adding to that pressure is the fact that Harrison will have to start the two races from 19th and 20th on the grid after a costly off early on in qualifying at Surtees Bend.
Race one takes place later today (at 15:50) and race two – the final round of 2017 – tomorrow, at 12:55.
Leading times, Renault Clio Cup Qualifying, Round 17, Brands Hatch Grand Prix
1. Mike Bushell (Team Pyro), 1m38.441s
2. Bradley Burns (Team Pyro), +0.002s
3. Daniel Rowbottom (DRM), +0.056s
4. Dan Zelos (WDE Motorsport), +0.083s
5. Max Coates (Ciceley Motorsport), +0.156s
6. Jack McCarthy (Team Pyro), +0.183s
7. James Colburn (PP Motorsport/Westbourne), +0.206s
8. Paul Rivett (WDE Motorsport), +0.211s
9. Lucas Orrock (Team Pyro), +0.239s
10. James Dorlin (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.369s
CLICK HERE for full times.
Leading times, Renault Clio Cup Qualifying, Round 18, Brands Hatch Grand Prix
1. Bushell, 1m38.455s
2. Burns, +0.049s
3. Orrock, +0.229s
4. Zelos, +0.347s
5. McCarthy, +0.376s
6. Dorlin, +0.565s
7. Coates, +0.568s
8. Rivett, +0.588s
9. Colburn, +0.651s
10. Rowbottom, +0.726s
CLICK HERE for full times.