Gordon 'Flash' Shedden took the pole for Honda Racing at a wet Thruxton on his return to the team, having left after the opening BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) race of 2009. It looked like it was going to be a dry session after an early...
Gordon 'Flash' Shedden took the pole for Honda Racing at a wet Thruxton on his return to the team, having left after the opening BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) race of 2009. It looked like it was going to be a dry session after an early rain shower, but the heaviest shower of the day happened just minutes into the first qualifying session of the season.
The Civic proved it is now at last a car that can challenge for the title as 'Flash's' teammate Matt Neal took third on the grid again, on his return to the team following two years at Vauxhall. The day had started well for Honda Racing scoring a 1-2 in the opening session of the day on a drying track.
Shedden said afterwards, "I managed to get a good clean lap and it's great to be starting from front. Whatever the weather conditions tomorrow, there's going to be lots of excitement, so to be starting with a clear track ahead is the best position to be in."
Neal was delighted by the Civic's performance and said, "It's a brilliant start for the team to have both cars right up at the sharp end," enthused the 2005 and 2006 champion. "It's going to be pretty fraught tomorrow but the Civic feels good in the wet and the dry, so we're ready and confident whatever the weather."
Splitting the two Honda Racing Civics will be Fabrizio Giovanardi in a Vauxhall Vectra for Triple 8 in an incredible story.
The multiple Touring Car champion from Modena was only confirmed on the eve of the event that he would be racing for the team in the same car that took him to the 2007 and 2008 BTCC championships. He completed a late sponsorship deal with UNIQ, which will see him race as an independent in an all-black Vectra.
Giovanardi had given up all hope of being on the 2010 grid following Vauxhall's withdrawal from the season and a delighted Italian said, "Obviously I'm very excited, I had almost given up hope and had even taken up a day job with my father-in-law's flooring company. Then ten days ago, I got a call from the team. I hadn't even renewed my racing licence, so it's all been a huge rush."
Despite not even testing the car prior to the event Giovanardi instantly looked to be the man to beat and set the fastest time during a dry second free practice. He was to be denied the pole later. "I don't like to be second.The car had the potential to be on pole but we had a small gearbox issue when the track was less wet and, by the time we had sorted that out, there were puddles on sections of the circuit," he said.
In fourth will be Andrew Jordan who put in a stunning performance in his family fun Pirtek Vectra. This marks the debut of the new turbo charged NGTC engine, which is clearly running well. The other man running the NGTC engine in yet another Vectra will be Dave Pinkney who starts down in thirteenth.
There was mixed news though for Silverline Chevrolet. Jason Plato will start fifth while his new team mate Alex McDowall, who will make his BTCC debut, will start down in fifteenth after failing ride height, which saw all of his qualifying times wiped out.
Both the Ford Focus drivers, Tom Chilton and Tom Onslow-Cole, finished in the top 10 with Chilton a good sixth and Onlsow-Cole in eighth; both showing just how much the car has come on so far during its short life span.
Putting in a good performance was reigning Clio Cup champion Phil Glew in the second UNIQ Racing Vectra for Triple 8. He looked instantly at home in the BTCC, qualifying in ninth just ahead of fans favourite Paul O'Neill in the ironically named sunshine.co.uk Honda Integra.
Airwaves BMW won the BMW battle with Mat Jackson qualifying seventh on his return to a BMW with his team mate Steven Kane finishing eleventh. Things were not so good for West Surrey Racing with Collard finishing in twelfth and Andy Neate finishing a disappointing seventeenth on his first BTCC following his life threatening crash back in 2008.
Tom Boardman will start fourteenth making his BTCC debut in the main class for Special Tuning in a Seat Leon and Martin Johnson Sixteenth, putting in a great display in his 2001 Vauxhall Astra Coupe.
Another driver who deserves a mention is Shaun Hollamby who qualified eighteenth in his AmD prepared Golf. AmD have worked miracles over the winter to get the car ready completely stripping and rebuilding the car following purchase, ensuring it was ready for the season and despite very little running the car, completed plenty of laps out throughout the day. It even out-qualified Mat Hamilton in a Honda Civic and John George in the second sunshine.co.uk although he only completed four laps suggesting there was a problem with the Integra.
Not present at Thruxton will be Lea Woods, who already announced that Brands Hatch would be his first race, and the two BMW's belonging to Forster Motorsport following their engine troubles, which have been sent back to Germany.
So that's how the grid lines up for the first round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Be sure to return following Sunday's races for full reviews and photos in what promises to be yet another unpredictable race weekend with a mixed up grid and the weather threatening to have an effect on the days racing.