Croft: Series qualifying report

TURKINGTON GRABS CROFT POLE POSITION TO PUT PRESSURE ON SERIES LEADER NEAL Colin Turkington has qualified on pole position for the first of tomorrow's three HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire -...

TURKINGTON GRABS CROFT POLE POSITION TO PUT PRESSURE ON SERIES LEADER NEAL

Colin Turkington has qualified on pole position for the first of tomorrow's three HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire - and in doing so has also moved to within one point of series leader Matt Neal.

Northern Irishman Turkington, in his Team RAC BMW, set the pole time in 1m26.006s and with it scored a bonus point to halve what was already just a slender two-point advantage held by Neal. Jason Plato in his Racing Silverline Chevrolet Lacetti was second fastest and third was Turkington's team-mate Stephen Jelley.

Neal was eighth fastest in his Vauxhall Vectra and with Turkington starting so far ahead faces the real prospect of losing his championship lead tomorrow. In fact, with the leading 15 drivers covered by less than a second, the signs are that tomorrow's crowd will be in for three thrill-a-minute races - each one will be televised live during a mammoth six-hour-plus broadcast on ITV4 from 11.45am-6.00pm.

Turkington, aged 27 from Portadown and who won two of the BTCC's three races at Oulton Park a fortnight ago, said: "This is perfect. It's exactly where we needed to be and with Matt back in eighth it's looking even better. But it's only 50 per cent of the job done - there are no guarantees how things will work out on Sunday."

Worcestershire's Neal, BTCC Champion in 2005 and 2006, added: "The BMWs always really suit the hot conditions like today and I was slightly on the back foot a bit considering I missed one of the practice sessions this morning with some damage to my car. I'm not overly disheartened - I've given it everything and we'll just see where we end up tomorrow. There's a forecast for slightly cooler weather which could bring us right back into it."

Elsewhere, Adam Jones was a stunning fourth fastest in his bio-ethanol-powered Cartridge World Carbon Zero Racing SEAT Leon. He set his fastest time in the closing stages - despite the fact that part of the track was covered in oil.

Plato's team-mate Mat Jackson, feeling groggy with suspected food poisoning, was fifth fastest ahead of Harry Vaulkhard - the Newcastle driver giving the locals plenty to cheer with sixth position in his Tempus Sport Chevrolet.

Other home favourite James Thompson, from York, was a lower-than-expected ninth fastest in his Team Dynamics Honda Civic while Neal's team-mate, the reigning Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi, was a way-below-par 13th.

-credit: btcc.net

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Series BTCC
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , James Thompson , Jason Plato , Colin Turkington , Matt Neal , Adam Jones , Harry Vaulkhard , Mat Jackson , Stephen Jelley