Free practice: Vauxhalls to the fore

Vauxhall's works stars Jason Plato and Yvan Muller kept up their BTCC domination in free practice for the series' first ever visit to Mondello Park.

Free practice: Vauxhalls to the fore

Plato topped the times, nearly a quarter of a second quicker than Muller as the teams got to grips with a dry Mondello track for the first time in Saturday morning's free practice. Plato reckons there is more to come too.

"If I'm honest," said the Englishman, "I'm probably about four tenths of a second off a perfect lap. There are still a couple of corners where I'm not quite sure of the best line in the dry."

After an hour on a wet track yesterday and another 45 minutes on a damp surface this morning, the BTCT drivers only found a fully dry track in their second Saturday session. The Vauxhalls are running for the first time with an extra 30kg on top of their success ballast and though that doesn't yet seem to have brought the rest any closer, Muller reckons it has brought him more of the understeer he dislikes so much.

James Thompson suffered a slight, but persistent misfire throughout the morning and remained over a second off the pace.

Peugeot missed almost all of the first session as Dan Eaves car malingered in the pits with a severe misfire - possibly a legacy of yesterday's rain - and Steve Soper spun off after just five laps. Soper's 406 engine died and would not re-fire, leaving Peugeot motorsport boss Mick Linford deeply unimpressed by the clerk of the course's refusal to stop the session to allow Soper to get going again.

In the second session, both drivers were playing catch-up. Soper finished up 1.473s off the ultimate pace, while Eaves again pulled in early after a rock flicked up from a piece of kerbing and broke his car's sump and gear linkage.

Kurt Luby's Lexus continues to progress and the IS200 split the two 406s. JS Motorsport's Alfa 147s stayed in England as the team tries to solve the engine problems which have dogged the cars to date this season.

Simon Graves and the Barwell Honda Accord were the surprise stars of the BTC Production session. The Middlesex truck dealer, who had a series of car problems on his series debut at the last meeting at Silverstone took full advantage of his lack of success ballast to top the times almost half a second ahead of Roger Moen's HTML Peugeot 306.




Jason Plato (Vauxhall) 1m47.701s
Yvan Muller (Vauxhall) 1m47.941s
Phil Bennett (Vauxhall) 1m48.776s
James Thompson (Vauxhall) 1m48.868s
Steve Soper (Peugeot) 1m49.174s
Kurt Luby (Lexus) 1m49.956s
Dan Eaves (Peugeot) 1m50.584s
Simon Graves (Honda P) 1m53.246s
Roger Moen (Peugeot P) 1m53.653s
Gareth Howell (Ford P) 1m53.800s

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Feature race: Full marks for Plato

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