James Thompson, driving an Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupé, took today's qualifying session by storm winning pole position for both Rounds 11 & 12 of the www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship which take place on Sunday at the 2.5-mile Donington Park circuit near Derby. Thompson's last BTCC double pole was set at Yorkshire's Croft circuit in 1999, while his last BTCC win was at this year's opening round at Brands Hatch.
Current Championship leader, Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller, battled with understeer to take second and third places on the grid for the 15-lap Sprint and 30-lap Feature Races respectively. Teammate, Jason Plato took the fourth spot on the grid for the Sprint Race but lines up next to Thompson on the front row for the main Feature Race. West Midlands' Phil Bennett set a time good enough for third on the grid for the Sprint but a mistake in his other fast lap sees him fourth for the Feature but still ahead of the Peugeot's of Steve Soper and Dan Eaves. The afternoon's 30-minute qualifying session was held in dry and bright conditions.
Yvan Muller, Car 4, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupé Sprint - 2nd, 1:42.813; Feature - 3rd, 1:42.973
"That wasn't the best qualifying session I've done but I'm not panicking. I experienced quite a lot of understeer which we managed to reduce during the session but not as much as I would have liked. Second and third on the grid is not bad and we shall see what tomorrow brings."
Jason Plato, Car 5, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupé Sprint - 4th, 1:43.131; Feature - 2nd, 1:42.944
"Second on the grid for the Feature Race is OK but I certainly don't feel I had the Astra Coupé set up right and balanced correctly. The brakes were starting to go off but the main issue really was with grip, the car just wasn't there and if I attacked the first part of a corner, the back would go."
James Thompson, Car 9, EggSport Vauxhall Astra Coupé Sprint - Pole, 1:42.611; Feature - Pole, 1:42.686
"I am very pleased with today's qualifying session. With very little testing it has taken some time to make the Astra Coupé fit like a glove but we finally got there. The Snetterton test went well and we have been able to reap the benefits of that here. There is some great competition between the teams - the works Vauxhalls have had it their way for too long now! There's still a bit of work to do on the car but generally I'm happy with the way it has gone today."
Phil Bennett, Car 27, EggSport Vauxhall Astra Coupé Sprint - 3rd, 1:42.992; Feature - 4th, 1:43.108
"I'm a little bit disappointed really as I had my hopes set on a front row start here at Donington but I lost time on the Melbourne Loop on my quickest lap which let me down. The times are very close though and I'm in front of Jason (Plato) for the Sprint Race which is a step forward. All I have to do now is survive the opening lap alongside Jason but overall I am really looking forward to tomorrow's races." <pre>
Qualifying - Sprint race: 1 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1:42.611 2 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1:42.813 3 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1:42.992 4 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1:43.131 5 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupé 1:43.595 6 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupé 1:43.889
Qualifying - Feature Race: 1 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1:42.686 2 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1:42.944 3 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1:42.973 4 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1:43.108 5 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupé 1:43.196 6 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupé 1:43.485 1: