The vastly experienced Colburn, returning to the championship for its swansong event, was the first driver to switch to slicks as the Brands Hatch GP circuit started to dry.
He was swiftly followed by team-mates Anton Spires and brother Ben Colburn and all three benefited from the decision as they took first, second and third places on the grid for this afternoon’s penultimate round.
The only driver who looked capable of beating them was title protagonist Max Coates who, having set the fastest first three sectors of anyone, had to back out of his lap as the red flags flew to retrieve a stricken car – ironically that of another Westbourne driver, Finlay Robinson.
Team HARD's Coates still wound up fourth fastest thanks to an earlier effort. The driver he is chasing for the crown, MRM’s Jack Young, was seventh with other title contender, Team HARD's Jamie Bond, ninth...
Young, Coates and Bond could have had a final shot at qualifying higher up the order but rain when session re-started put paid to any hopes.
On second best lap times, Young at least salvaged third on the grid for tomorrow’s final round but Coates will be much further back in tenth with Bond between them in seventh. Again, the front row of the grid will be all-Westbourne with James Colburn once more ahead of Spires….
The two topsy-turvy grids throw further unknowns into the already highly unpredictable title battle.
Race one takes place at 13:45 today and will be live-streamed by ITV.
Race two – the championship’s last ever race – is at 12:45 tomorrow and will be televised LIVE on ITV4 as well as live-streamed on the ITV Hub.
James Colburn, a former championship runner-up, commented: “On my out lap I could sense it was going to slicks and I figured the quicker you made the change the more chance you’d have of getting them up to temperature and popping in the fast laps.
“We’re a family-run team who’ve been with the Clio Cup for many years and it’s lovely to have three of our cars right up for the front for the championship’s final two races.”
Spires’ two seconds represent his best qualifying results in the Clio Cup. He said: “We just caught everyone on the hop – as soon as I put the slicks on I could feel how grippy it was and it was a case of keeping it precise and making sure of some quick times.
“I’m sure Max, Jack and Jamie will want to get onto us and come through and, while mindful of what they are racing for, I’m sure we’re all still going to give them a race.”
Leading Qualifying Times, Round 17, Brands Hatch:
1. James Colburn (Westbourne Motorsport), 1m43.751s (84.43mph)
2. Anton Spires (Westbourne Motorsport), +1.139s
3. Ben Colburn (Westbourne Motorsport), +1.858s
4. Max Coates (Team HARD), +2.005s
5. Brett Lidsey (MRM), 2.108s
6. Ethan Hammerton (Team HARD), 2.109s
7. Jack Young (MRM), +3.463s
8. Tyler Lidsey (MRM), +3.863s
9. Jamie Bond (Team HARD), +4.043s
10. Aaron Thompson (Westbourne Motorsport), +4.098s
Leading Qualifying Times, Round 18, Brands Hatch:
1. James Colburn (Westbourne Motorsport), 1m44.343s
2. Anton Spires (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.637s
3. Jack Young (MRM), +3.279s
4. Ethan Hammerton (Team HARD), +3.282s
5. Aaron Thompson (Westbourne Motorsport), +3.667s
6. Ben Colburn (Westbourne Motorsport), +3.693s
7. Jamie Bond (Team HARD), +3.715s
8. Nathan Edwards (MRM), +3.968s
9. Tyler Lidsey (MRM), +4.000s
10. Max Coates (Team HARD), +4.021s
CLICK HERE for full qualifying times and data (sector analysis, speed trap figures etc).