Neal Leads Vauxhall 1-2 in qualifying at Brands Hatch

Twenty cars will line up tomorrow for the first rounds of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship headed by the Vauxhall Vectras with a 'surprised' Matt Neal just ahead of his teammate Fabrizio Giovanardi.

Matt Neal.
Photo by Pat Cranham.

Neal's lap also set a new qualifying lap record beating Yvan Muller's record set way back in 2001. Andrew Jordan made it a good day all round for the VxRacing team putting a good performance finishing fifth.

In-between the Vauxhalls will be the two men who set the pace in the morning's practice sessions: Rob Collard who set the fastest time in the second free practice, finishing third and Colin Turkington who set the pace in the first session, finishing fourth.

Collard's Airwaves BMW teammate and debutant, Jonny Adam, will line up in sixth while Turkington's Team RAC teammate Stephen Jelley was eighth. He would have been higher, however, a spin at paddock put him in the gravel and out of qualifying.

In seventh was Gordon Shedden who was sporting new yellow flames down the side of his car rather than the silver ones which had previously been seen on the car. Appropriately his teammate Dave Pinkney had pink ones. They did not help him as he ended up in 14th.

In ninth was Jason Plato, who admitted to being rusty, in an RML prepared Chevrolet Lacetti having struck up a late deal to drive the car after only a small shakedown of the car previously. Harry Vaulkhard, who was in the same car, but run by Tempus sport, was 11th.

Either side of Vaulkhard were the two Clyde Valley Racing prepared Seat Leons with Adam Jones ahead of Dan Eaves. John George put in a good display and finished 13th and Martyn Bell was 15th, both in different Honda Integras.

Stephen Jelley Spins.
Photo by Pat Cranham.

Tom Chilton was a disappointing 16th in his brand new Ford Focus with the team baffled by their straight-line speed. He was ahead of Liam McMillan and Martin Johnson.

The last two places on the grid were taken by drivers who struck late deals to drive. First up is Alan Morrison, who returns to the series for the first time since 2003, where he ran once again with Team Arena when they prepared works Honda Civics taking wins along the way.

Nick Leason will drive the final car on the grid, a Blue Diesel BMW 1 series. This isn't the first time the car has appeared on the grid however, as it previously appeared briefly driven by Rick Kerry in 2007 when it was yellow.

Sadly there are a couple of withdrawals from the weekend with Paul O'Neil away on business commitments and Jason Hughes' knee still isn't fit enough to go racing. Both should appear for the next rounds at Thruxton.