Brands Hatch: Series practice report

Chilton blitzes Brands FP1 Tom Chilton was more than half a second clear of the rest in this morning's opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship practice session around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. Chilton's LPG-turbo Team...

Chilton blitzes Brands FP1

Tom Chilton was more than half a second clear of the rest in this morning's opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship practice session around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.

Chilton's LPG-turbo Team Aon Ford Focus was beneath the qualifying record as he set a best lap time of 1m32.361s -- 0.569s ahead of next fastest Andrew Jordan (Pirtek Racing) who headed a trio of Vauxhall Vectra drivers as James Nash (Uniq Racing with 888) and David Pinkney (Pinkney Motorsport) set the third and fourth best times. Notably, Jordan's and Pinkney's cars are both using TOCA's new-for-2010 NGTC turbocharged engine.

Pinkney's performance in particular was noteworthy as his team has been working round the clock to repair damage to his car sustained less than a week ago at Rockingham. He also admitted that new front suspension tweaks have "transformed" his car's poise and handling.

Matt Neal, twice a race-winner at Rockingham last weekend and currently second in the standings, was fifth in his heavily ballasted Honda Racing Team Honda Civic. Sixth, the last driver to get within a second of pace-setter Chilton, was Neal's team-mate Gordon Shedden.

The BMWs of WSR's Robert Collard and Airwaves BMW's Mat Jackson were next up as Chilton's team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole and Alex MacDowall (Silverline Chevrolet Cruze) completed the top ten.

But there were problems for MacDowall's team-mate Jason Plato, the championship leader. He could manage only five full laps before parking his Cruze in the pit lane after an oil warning light came on. At one stage he needed to 'do a James Hunt' and take a short cut back to the pit lane and his mechanics, as a matter of precaution, are now busy changing its engine ahead of the second practice session at 12.35pm.

Steven Kane, third in the championship, was also in a spot of bother. He managed just four laps before handing his car over to his Airwaves BMW crew so they could look into a steering problem on his car and so was classified at the tail of the times, in 22nd.

Meanwhile, newcomers Lea Wood (Central Racing Group Honda Integra) and Martin Depper (Forster Motorsport BMW) appeared to settle in nicely in 19th and 20th spots.

Rockingham giant killer Martin Johnson was 21st, choosing to stop early so as to allow his Boulevard Vauxhall Astra's gearbox to cool down.

Fords 1-2 in FP2

Aon Ford team-mates Tom Onslow-Cole and Tom Chilton were 1-2 in an incident-filled second Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship practice session at Brands Hatch.

Onslow-Cole topped the timesheets with a late lap of 1m32.430s around Brands' awesome Grand Prix circuit to just pip long-time pace-setter Chilton who, stuck in traffic, was unable to respond. Their LPG turbo-engined Focuses, though, are clearly well suited to the Brands GP lay-out and seem to be the cars to beat going into this afternoon's qualifying session at 3.40pm.

However, the rest were much closer to ultimate pace this time, after Chilton had been more than half a second clear of the field in this morning's first session. Matt Neal's Honda Racing Team Honda Civic was third, just 0.169s off Onslow-Cole's fastest time, and James Nash was fourth, just a further 0.090s behind in his Uniq Racing with 888 Vauxhall Vectra.

Neal's team-mate Gordon Shedden and Paul O'Neill, in his with Tech-Speed Honda Integra were next up. After problems with his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze this morning, championship leader Jason Plato, who seemed to be constantly in and out of the pit lane, completed the top ten thanks to a couple of fast laps at the end of the session, but was at least within a second of the top time.

The session needed to be halted after ten minutes so marshals could retrieve the WSR BMW of Andy Neate which had spun backwards off the circuit into a gravel trap entering Clark Curve. Andrew Jordan had earlier been lucky to survive a lurid slide through the same gravel trap, but kept on going in his Pirtek Racing Vectra to wind up seventh overall -- another strong showing after being second this morning.

But David Pinkney, third in session one, was this time back in 11th. After spins at Graham Hill Bend his session came to an abrupt halt when his Pinkney Motorsport Vectra's gearbox broke along Cooper Straight, forcing him to pull off the track immediately.

There were also woes for Mat Jackson who ground to a halt exiting Westfield Bend with an engine sensor fault on his Airwaves BMW and, just as it appeared he was getting into his stride, he was resigned to 12th overall. That was still two places better than team-mate Steven Kane who was 14th as he worked to hone his car's set-up after he'd also lost valuable track time this morning.


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Series BTCC
Drivers Tom Chilton , Paul O'Neill , Jason Plato , Matt Neal , Robert Collard , Steven Kane , Graham Hill , Tom Onslow-Cole , James Hunt , Gordon Shedden , Andrew Jordan , Martin Johnson , James Nash , Mat Jackson , Andy Neate , Martin Depper , Lea Wood , Alex MacDowall