Oxford's Jason Plato scored a double pole start to Sunday's pair of British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) races at Knockhill circuit near Edinburgh, beating Vauxhall Motorsport team mate and championship leader Yvan Muller into second place on the grid. James Thompson and Phil Bennett claimed the next two places to make it four Astra Coupes at the top of the qualifying times on the championship's only visit to Scotland this year.
The 30-minute session, held in damp but drying conditions, was stopped for 10 minutes when the Peugeot 406 Coupe of Dan Eaves caught fire.
Vauxhall needs a 1-2-3 finish in Sunday's Sprint race to win the 2001 Champion Manufacturer's title.
Jason Plato, Car 5, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupé
Sprint - Pole, 55.449; Feature - Pole, 55.437
"This is a very important result for me, as it should have happened earlier in the year. We had an extremely productive test at Snetterton a few weeks ago working with my engineer, John Morton. We changed our style of working and it now seems to be paying off. I'm a lot more methodical, not panicking or trying to rush things. That was fairly instrumental today in a very mixed session with the track conditions constantly changing. I just stayed out getting the feel of the track and in the last 10 minutes when most of the others were beginning to panic, I knew the grip would be there. Overall, very pleased as the times were an improvement on this morning's despite less good conditions."
Yvan Muller, Car 4, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupé
Sprint - 2nd, 55.785; Feature - 2nd, 55.636
"I didn't have a particularly good practice session this morning and although we've changed the set up, it took a little while to get into it. But generally in qualifying the balance of the Astra Coupe wasn't bad, perhaps a little light for my style of driving but we'll change that overnight. I managed to get in a couple of good times fairly late in the session which was good."
James Thompson, Car 9, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupé
Sprint - 3rd, 55.798; Feature - 3rd, 55.646
"A bit of an odd one that. I missed the first couple of laps in the dry and was on a bit of a back foot from then on. I was competitive in the middle stint but then the Peugeot caught fire stopping the session. In the last part of the session, I was pretty much there until I was pulled into the weighbridge with 5 minutes to go. Of course, I then needed to put a new set of tyres on and just didn't have time to put heat into them. I think I could have gone a little quicker."
Phil Bennett, Car 27, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupé
Sprint - 4th, 55.803; Feature - 4th, 55.862
"It feels a lot more natural now in the Astra Coupe and although I'm fourth behind the others, I'm not actually that far off their times so I can't be disappointed with that. It was a very mixed session and it didn't help when Dan Eaves went off as I had new tyres on - it ruined a potentially good lap. I'm not too worried though I'm a good racer and am looking forward to tomorrow."
Qualifying - Sprint race: 1 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupé 55.449 2 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupé 55.785 3 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupé 55.798 4 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupé 55.803 5 Thomas Erdos (BR) Lexus IS200 56.004 6 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupé 56.187
Qualifying - Feature Race: 1 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupé 55.437 2 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupé 55.636 3 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupé 55.646 4 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupé 55.862 5 Thomas Erdos (BR) Lexus IS200 56.115 6 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupé 56.188 ________________________________________ Vauxhall Motorsport Media Centre ProAction Media Relations Tel: 01480 494060 Fax 01480 494062 e-mail: email@example.com ________________________________________