The VX Racing team returned to track action at Snetterton today for two practice sessions ahead of tomorrow's action-packed day of BTCC racing. All three drivers quickly set the pace, and it was team newcomer Paul O'Neill that came out on top at the end of the day in his Vauxhall Astra Coupe, posting the quickest time of the two sessions, with a lap of 1min 12.042 secs. Team mate James Thompson, quickest in the first session, was less than 0.3 seconds behind with the third fastest time, with the two drivers separated by Alan Morrison in his Honda Civic. Yvan Muller managed to finish in ninth place after a trying day for the Frenchman.
O'Neill's posting of the quickest time came after a first session which had seen him damage his front splitter and radiator following an excursion off track as he ran wide through Riches Corner. Giving his crew less than an hour to repair the damage, O'Neill was back out on track for the second session determined to repay his crew for the trouble he caused.
O'Neill summed up his day saying, " To be honest, I didn't realise how good that last lap was, I just went flat out. I rolled the windows up -- there were loads of flies in my car - but I just had to blank them out and go for it. It was to repay the boys for all their hard work. The car is handling brilliantly, so if I can do that tomorrow, I'll be so pleased.
Thompson was satisfied with his performance after the two sessions, saying, "I'm happy with where we are at today. We were doing race runs and everything went okay really. We didn't really go for a qualifying set up, we were concentrating on the race, so there should be more to come tomorrow. I wouldn't be surprised if we can go below 1min 12 seconds if the weather stays like this. If the weather changes, then it'll be a bit of a lottery for everyone. "
Yvan Muller suffered from a lack of track time with a succession of car problems. In the first session Muller was hampered by electrical glitches, followed by an engine failure that brought a premature end to his running. The crew completed the engine change to put Muller back on track in time to get some running in the second session, but a power steering failure only eight laps later resulted in retirement from the track and a return to the garage for further work.
"This morning we started with electrical problems, after with engine," said Muller. "Then we change the engine and I start late. I do five laps, then the power steering fails. So, what do I learn today? Nothing. What set up do I use for tomorrow? I don't know. With a championship like this, where it's all so tight, when you have delays like this, it's difficult to come back. I will try my best of course."
Rounds 13 and 14 of the British Touring Car Chamionship take place at Snetterton tomorrow. In a departure from the traditional weekend event, qualifying will be in the morning, followed by an afternoon race and an evening race.