Champion Thompson fastest in Silverstone qualifying
Vauxhall's James Thompson has qualified in pole position for the first of tomorrow's (Sunday) two Green Flag MSA British Touring Car rounds at Silverstone, while GA Motorsports' Gavin Pyper and Barwell Motorsport's Luke Hines headed the Hilton Independents Trophy and Production class drivers.
Reigning champion Thompson, in his Vauxhall Astra Coupe, set a best lap time of one minute, 28. 277 seconds - an average speed of 91.71mph. He will be joined on the first row of the grid by the Honda Civic Type-R of Matt Neal.
Vauxhall's French star Yvan Muller, who leads the championship, will start third, followed by the two MG ZSs of Warren Hughes, the winner of one of last year's two Silverstone races, and Colin Turkington, with Pyper sixth in GA's Astra Coupe.
Thompson knows that starting from pole position will give him a chance to eat into the 20-point advantage that Muller holds over him. He said: "After a bad time at Thruxton two weeks ago, it's great to be back in front. But doing well in the first race is vital as it sets your grid position for the second race later in the day - a bad result in the first race and you're day is ruined."
Neal, who has won once for Honda but trails Muller by 49 points after some appalling luck, says he believes the title race remains wide open. "I have to believe I've had my bad luck and that from here things will start to turn around," said Neal. "Two bad results for Yvan tomorrow and two wins for me and I'm right up with him again."
Muller, whose Astra Coupe will be penalised with maximum ballast weight - used to prevent single-car domination in the BTCC - said predicting the outcome of tomorrow's two races was "impossible". Muller said: "All I can say is that we are only six races into this championship and there are still 14 to go. Anything can happen. I said before that I thought James and Matt would be difficult to beat in qualifying because they carry less weight. The second row of the grid was my goal. I've achieved that so I'm happy today."
Gareth Howell, returning to the BTCC in a Team Dynamics Vauxhall Astra Coupe and boosting the Touring class field to 17 cars, was 11th, Independents points leader, Synchro Honda Racing's James Kaye 12th and Phil Bennett, the fastest of the Proton Impian drivers, 13th.
Hines, driving Barwell's Honda Civic Type-R, was 18th fastest overall and tomorrow hopes to achieve his and his team's first Production class victory. Tom Boardman, twice a Production class winner at Thruxton in Team Varta's Peugeot 307, was next up with points leader Michael Bentwood, in Edenbridge Racing's BMW 320i, third.