Free Practice: Plato on the pace

Vauxhall's Brits have set the pace in free practice for Monday's BTCC rounds at Thruxton. Jason Plato was quickest all morning for the works team, while Team Egg Sport's James Thompson slipped in his quickest lap right at the end of the second session to keep his impressive team mate Phil Bennett in his place.

Free Practice: Plato on the pace

"It's down to the progress we made in the test day last month," said Plato. "We're on top of the game. The balance is good in the quick bits, though we're still fighting it a bit in the slow stuff."

Bennett appears to have made excellent progress since the first round and is now very close to the ultimate Astra pace. "I'm flat-out," he admitted, "though I don't know how hard the others are going. Quailfying's when it matters." He was quicker than Thompson for much of the second session, as the Yorkshireman lost track time while a broken oil pipe was fixed. Thommo produced the goods when he got the chance at the end of the session though.

At Peugeot, major set-up changes were still the order of the day as Steve Soper and Dan Eaves tried different solutions before the team decides on a final qualifying set-up. Peugeot Motorsport boss Mick Linford reported a big improvement from the engine and the 406 Coupe's straightline speed is now much improved.

The JSM Alfa team fielded two cars for the first time and both Tom Ferrier and Dave Pinkney were fighting handling problems, though both found a considerable improvement in the 147s for the second session.

The ABG Motorsport Lexus IS200 went well considering that it had completed only a handful of troubled shakedown laps before appearing here. "You couldn't put in words how delighted I am," said driver Kurt Luby, who expect further big improvements come qualifying.

In the single BTC Production session, HTML Peugeot driver Roger Moen set the pace, followed by the Barwell Honda of James Kaye and Rob Collard's impressive little Renault Clio.

Jason Plato (Vauxhall) 1m17.543s 41 laps
James Thompson (Vauxhall) 1m17.648s 34 laps
Phil Bennett (Vauxhall) 1m17.798s 45 laps
Yvan Muller (Vauxhall) 1m17.845s 37 laps
Steve Soper (Peugeot) 1m19.296s 31 laps
Dan Eaves (Peugeot) 1m19.497s 39 laps
Tom Ferrier (Alfa Romeo) 1m21.316s 25 laps
Dave Pinkney (Alfa Romeo) 1m21.447s 37 laps
Kurt Luby (Lexus) 1m21.886s 31 laps
Roger Moen (Peugeot P) 1m22.237s 17 laps
James Kaye (Honda P) 1m22.400s 21 laps
Robert Collard (Renault P) 1m22.798s 20 laps

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