Neal on pole for Brands Hatch opener

Matt Neal claimed his first British Touring Car Championship pole position for three years with a brilliant display in qualifying for the opening round of the season at Brands Hatch

Neal on pole for Brands Hatch opener

The Vauxhall driver broke Yvan Muller's eight-year-old qualifying lap record on the 1.2-mile Indy circuit with a time of 48.857 seconds, set just seven minutes into the half-hour session, to claim his 10th career BTCC pole.

Reigning champion Fabrizio Giovanardi made it an all-Vectra front row with a time just 0.020 seconds slower.

Practice pace-setter Rob Collard lay down in sixth for most of the session in his Motorbase Performance BMW, but he dug deep in the dying minutes and found a time good enough for third on the grid, ahead of Colin Turkington's WSR-run 320si.

Andrew Jordan qualified a career-best fifth in the third of the works Vauxhalls, while Jonathan Adam was an excellent sixth for Motorbase on his BTCC debut.

Gordon Shedden put on a late show in his Team Dynamics Honda, finding a couple of tenths to move up to seventh, ahead of Stephen Jelley's WSR BMW.

Jelley had looked set for a top six spot on the grid, but slid off at Paddock Hill Bend with 18 minutes gone and beached his car in the gravel, bringing out the red flags. He dropped to eighth by the chequered flag.

Former champion Jason Plato and Adam Jones, on their first outings for RML Chevrolet and Clyde Valley Racing SEAT respectively, completed the top 10.

Tom Chilton was the best of the Arena Ford drivers, qualifying 16th, just a spot ahead of series debutant Liam McMillan.

McMillan was using a down-on-power spare engine in his Maxtreme SEAT Toledo following a problem with his number one unit in practice. Alan Morrison was 19th in the second Focus.

Pos Driver Car Time Gap 1. Matt Neal Vauxhall 48.857 2. Fabrizio Giovanardi Vauxhall 48.877 +0.020 3. Rob Collard BMW 48.926 +0.069 4. Colin Turkington BMW 49.022 +0.165 5. Andrew Jordan Vauxhall 49.073 +0.216 6. Jonathan Adam BMW 49.121 +0.264 7. Gordon Shedden  Honda 49.180 +0.323 8. Stephen Jelley BMW 49.227 +0.370 9. Jason Plato Chevrolet 49.514 +0.657 10. Adam Jones SEAT 49.611 +0.754 11. Harry Vaulkhard Chevrolet 49.649 +0.792 12. Dan Eaves SEAT 49.756 +0.899 13. John George Honda 49.881 +1.024 14. David Pinkney Honda 49.886 +1.029 15. Martyn Bell Honda 50.029 +1.172 16. Tom Chilton Ford 50.286 +1.429 17. Liam McMillan SEAT 50.419 +1.562 18. Martin Johnson Vauxhall 50.502 +1.645 19. Alan Morrison Ford 50.819 +1.962 20. Nick Leason BMW 51.808 +2.951 
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