Thompson maintains the advantage in championship battle.
British Touring Car Championship leader, James Thompson managed to stay one step ahead of his teammates and championship rivals this afternoon by qualifying in third and sixth places respectively for tomorrow's Rounds 17 &18 at Kent's Brands Hatch Indy Circuit. With just 19 points separating the Yorkshireman from his Vauxhall Motorsport teammate, Yvan Muller, and overall third placed, Egg Sport Astra Coupe driver, Matt Neal, 37 points behind, the battle for grid positions amongst the Vauxhall drivers was a heated one.
However, the Vauxhall Astra Coupe drivers had a real fight on their hands this afternoon and not only with the on-form MG's who took pole position for the two races with Anthony Reid and Warren Hughes respectively. Traffic, more than anything today, proved the deciding factor with all four Triple Eight-run Vauxhall Astra Coupe drivers complaining about production car drivers getting in their way on hot laps. Consequently, Vauxhall Motorsport's Muller, who was also running with 30kgs of ballast, lines up sixth and fourteenth whilst Egg Sport's Neal starts the Sprint and Feature races from tenth and fifth places on the grid.
Egg Sport's Paul O'Neill had a less than satisfactory qualifying session when an unexpected blow-out at Paddock resulted in the Merseyside driver going off into the gravel trap and causing considerable damage to his Astra. Frantic action by his team of mechanics did enable him to rejoin the final fifteen minutes of the session but damp conditions and a coming together with one of the Barwell Astras left him down the qualifying grid for both races.
Vauxhall Motorsport Quotes
Yvan Muller, Car 2, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - 6th, Feature - 14th
"I had a big moment in that first session at Paddock Hill Bend! I locked up all the tyres which really messed them up. I then put a second set on and I just got held up by traffic - it's so bad around here for getting stuck behind someone."
James Thompson, Car 3, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - 3rd, Feature - 6th
"Ballast really hurts here but it was the traffic that really annoyed me - especially Tom Boardman (Production driver) who is just unbelievable! I had my quickest lap blocked by him in the closing stages of the session. Anyway, it's where I am relative to Yvan that counts I suppose."
OTHER VAUXHALL NEWS
Matt Neal, Car 0, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 10th, Feature - 5th
"I didn't get one clear lap. I was on a real beauty of a lap until our old friend Mr. Boardman held me up. Very frustrating. And then, in the second session I was suffering from a lack of new tyres because of an earlier puncture."
Paul O'Neill, Car 29, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 15th, Feature - 15th
"Well, what can I say except that I had a blow out at Paddock with no warning whatsoever. I went off and nearly wrecked my car. And although the guys did a great job, I'm obviously very disappointed." <pre> Qualifying Results - Sprint Race 1 Anthony Reid MG ZS 49.534s 2 Warren Hughes MG ZS 49.569 3 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 49.596 4 Gareth Howell MG ZS 49.612 5 Colin Turkington MG ZS 49.630 6 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 49.650 7 Tim Harvey Peugeot 406 Coupe 49.674 8 Aaron Slight (NZ) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 49.713 9 Phil Bennett Proton Impian 49.734 10 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 49.745
Qualifying Results - Feature Race 1 Warren Hughes MG ZS 49.210s 2 Aaron Slight (NZ) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 49.212 3 Anthony Reid MG ZS 49.220 4 Colin Turkington MG ZS 49.225 5 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 49.368 6 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 49.423 7 Gareth Howell MG ZS 49.500 8 Tim Harvey Peugeot 406 Coupe 49.511 9 Alan Morrison Honda Civic Type R 49.611 10 Carl Breeze Peugeot 406 Coupe 49.619