One of the most competitive grids will take the start of Round 4 of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship with four previous champions and no fewer than 11 race winners on the grid, and who better to lead them than reigning double BTCC ...
One of the most competitive grids will take the start of Round 4 of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship with four previous champions and no fewer than 11 race winners on the grid, and who better to lead them than reigning double BTCC champion Fabrizio Giovanardi taking pole with a stunning flying lap. Literally that's all it took to get pole; just one flying lap in qualifying and he really did fly, getting all wheels off the ground taking the chicane.
Giovanardi had a mixed morning though which started well when he posted the fastest time in free practice 1. In the second he did not manage to complete a single lap when on his out lap he was involved in a collision with Stephen Jelley, who was on a fast lap. Both cars made heavy contact with Jelley's wheel being ripped off his car while Giovanardi also suffered heavy damage. Both drivers had different opinions of the incident with Jelley saying, "It was just very unfortunate. Fabrizio was on an out lap and moved right going into Goodwood to give me room on the outside. But I was fully committed - the right hand part of the track there is the racing line and I had nowhere to go. I actually jinked right onto the grass and miss him but as I came back on he was still there and we hit each other." While Giovanardi said, "I moved right and gave him all the track on the left to pass me but still... bang!"
Despite this Giovanardi knew he had a good car and without ballast posted a time 0.320s clear of his VXR team mate Matt Neal, who carried full ballast, to claim amazingly only the Italian's second ever pole in the BTCC. A delighted but cautious 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!"
It had looked like for much of the session as if it was going to be a Vauxhall 1-2-3 with Andrew Jordan in third. With his final lap of the session, however, Jason Plato, now running for RML under the name of Silverline Racing, produced a stunning lap to raise him from tenth to third on the grid with Jordan having to settle for forth.
In fifth was first BMW driver Colin Turkington ahead of the biggest surprise of the day and star of qualifying was former race winner and returnee to the series Paul O'Neill in his Teamsunshine.com techspeed Honda Integra. O'Neill was not as surprised saying, "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 its best circuit. We've got a game plan for tomorrow - hopefully what we have in mind will pay off."
In seventh and ninth were the two Clyde Valley Racing Seat's with Adam Jones ahead of Dan Eaves. Jones had run third in both practices in which were encouraging results for the team.
In eighth and tenth were the two returning starts to the series James Thompson in the Team Dynamics Honda Civic who was eighth and Mat Jackson in the RML Chevrolet Lacetti.
Next up was the disappointed Airways BMW drivers Jonny Adam and local ace Rob Collard, who struggled around the Thruxton circuit with Collard saying, "The car is hopping and skipping about lots and I can't do two consistent laps with it. If I'm honest we are scratching our heads."
Behind the Airways BMW's are Harry Vaulkhard and Stephen Jelley, with his car perhaps showing some affect of the morning's earlier incident. A trio of Hondas will line up in 15-16-17 in the order of Martyn Bell, Dave Pinkney and John George with a hard charging Martin Johnson doing well to finish 18th in his ageing Vauxhall Astra Coupe.
In 19th and 21st positions were another extremely disappointed team of Team Aon with their pair of Ford Focus' still struggling with their straight- line speed. Tom Chilton will start in front of his teammate Alan Morrison.
In between the Focus' will be Liam McMillan in his Seat Toledo. Nick Leason will start in 22nd as he failed to complete a single lap in qualifying in his AFM diesel powered 1 series BMW.
Failing to make it to Thruxton was Jason Hughes who has still not been given the all clear from the doctors following his knee surgery.