GIOVANARDI RECOVERS FROM CRASH TO GRAB BTCC POLE POSITION AT THRUXTON Fabrizio Giovanardi needed just one flying lap in his repaired Vauxhall Vectra to achieve pole position in this afternoon's HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship qualifying...
GIOVANARDI RECOVERS FROM CRASH TO GRAB BTCC POLE POSITION AT THRUXTON
Fabrizio Giovanardi needed just one flying lap in his repaired Vauxhall Vectra to achieve pole position in this afternoon's HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship qualifying session at the Thruxton circuit in Hampshire.
Italian Giovanardi, the reigning Champion, set a time of 1m17.985s to take what is only the second pole position of his BTCC career. Just hours before the session, Giovanardi's Vectra had been in pieces as his VX Racing mechanics hastily rebuilt it after a high speed crash in an earlier practice session.
Giovanardi's pole time was an astonishing 0.320s clear of his team-mate Matt Neal who goes into tomorrow's three BTCC races driving a Vauxhall Vectra handicapped by 45kgs of success ballast. Neal qualified just ahead of old foe Jason Plato who, on his final attempt, leapt from tenth to third overall in his Racing Silverline Chevrolet Lacetti. Plato's effort denied the VXR team a 1-2-3 on the grid as he demoted youngster Andrew Jordan to fourth.
Northern Irishman Colin Turkington, second in the standings to Neal, was fifth fastest in his Team RAC BMW while Paul O'Neill, the brother of pop star Mel C, was a superb sixth in the small Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed team's Honda Integra. Eighth, making it four past and present BTCC champions in the top ten and underlining the strength of the grid, was the returning James Thompson in Team Dynamics' Honda Civic. But there was frustration for local hero Robert Collard - the Hampshire driver, third in the championship, was back in 12th in his Airwaves BMW.
Meanwhile, a delighted Giovanardi said: "I'll be happy when we finish first in the race - finishing first in qualifying doesn't mean anything yet. Even though we had the crash in second practice, I knew we were in good shape as the car had felt so good earlier on this morning. I couldn't have been second with no ballast on the car when my team-mate Matt is close behind me with full ballast!"
Neal, from Worcestershire, added: "We've had a better start to the weekend than I had expected. The car is fantastic around here. My fastest laps weren't completely clean, I made a couple of little mistakes on both, but to be on the front row with Fabrizio is job done from my perspective. The car does feel very hooked up around here, especially in qualifying trim, but tomorrow's another day. We're going to have our hands full, but we're starting in the right place for some good results."
Oxford-based Plato said: "I'm chuffed with that. I learnt a lot on my first attempt and applied what I learnt to that final run. Whether we can challenge the Vauxhalls tomorrow, I don't know. I lost the first practice session with a problem so I haven't had chance to fully assess the tyre situation which is critical here so we may have to run a slightly conservative set-up. On saying that, I'd prefer that - you don't score points by getting a puncture on the last lap."
An elated O'Neill, from Widnes but who now lives in Northampton, added: "I don't know why people are surprised. The car is just very, very good - it's as simple as that. Sure, it's four years old but it was the class of the field in 2005 and Thruxton was always probably its best circuit. We've got a game plan for tomorrow - hopefully what we have in mind will pay off."
Tomorrow's three BTCC races will receive extensive live coverage on the ITV4 channel which will be broadcasting from Thruxton between 11.30am and 6.00pm.