Gilham qualified in 12th place, it could have been much better had he not run out of fuel on his last flying lap when setting a best 1st sector.
After starting in 12th position, Gilham was looking fast in the 2nd half of the race and expecting to move up the field, however following a crash the safety car was deployed. With Tony in 11th place the race was then red flagged due to the adverse weather conditions and the vast amount of standing water on the track. Gilham was quite happy with this as he later confirmed that “I lost power to my wipers during the race”.
Starting race two in 11th Tony had a great battle with the Pirtek Honda of Andrew Jordan, a battle which Gilham won, earning him a valuable 9th place finish, putting him in the reverse grid draw. To the joy of the Gilham camp, Murray Walker pulled out the all-important number nine ball, meaning that Gilham would start race 3 in a first ever pole position.
The 31 year old ex-cage fighter stood in elated disbelief, when he was given pole “ No! …Its wicked and I`m hoping for a podium ”. As the news sunk in he celebrated with the team, as seen below in exclusive footage inside his pit lane garage with family and friends.
With changeable weather conditions, the team sent Gilham out to lead the grid with Slicks at the front and wets on the rear, however a last minute look at the clouds made the team opt for full wets. Tony made an excellent start and soon pulled out a good lead as the drivers behind jostled for position and slowed each other down.
Pressure soon mounted on him as the Hondas of Neal and Shedden sucked him back into the battle and despite a brave attempt to stay in front an error at Campbell allowed both Hondas to pass him.
Unperturbed by this Gilham continued to drive hard and was soon put under pressure from Frank Wrathall, however the complex was once again to be his nemesis. He braked slightly late into the bend, causing him to lock up and nose dive into the tyre wall.
The car was badly damaged but Tony was determined to at least limp the car home to the pits, with the radiator having been punctured his race was over.
Gilham said “I could have nursed the tyres and gone for a top 6 finish but I am competitive and wanted to seize my chance from pole and try to win the race”.
Sadly the smaller tyres on his S2000 Honda were no match for the 18” tyres on the NGTC cars.
Gilham had pushed hard to stay in front, however with the abrasive surface at Thruxton and soft compound of the wets, his tyres were soon shot.
The ever popular Gilham continues to make progress and is closely followed by the ITV cameras, it is only a matter of time before he records his first win.
With a six week gap before Oulton Park, Tony is focussed on getting that elusive win “too right I am hungry to win, I know I can do it” he said from his garage where the team have already started preparations for the next rounds. “Just need to get things altogether and finalised now so we can keep building and moving forward” Gilham enthused.
Report: Rachel Evans
Photography: Tim Surman