Neal takes pole for BTCC opener

Matt Neal stormed to pole position for the British Touring Car Championship opener at Brands Hatch in his Honda Racing Civic this afternoon

Neal takes pole for BTCC opener

The double champion's best time in the first half of the session was good enough for pole, but he improved later to top the grid for tomorrow's race with a 48.210s effort.

"I've been Mr Glum all morning, but we managed to get a good qualifying run," said the Team Dynamics driver, who is running the Neil Brown-prepared turbo engine in his Civic for the first time.

Andrew Jordan, who set the pace throughout free practice in his Eurotech Racing Vauxhall Vectra, will join Neal on the front row. He recorded a 48.465s in the TOCA-engined machine.

Reigning champion Jason Plato pushed hard in his RML-run Chevrolet Cruze, almost going off at Clearways, and took third with less than three minutes to go. He was almost 0.4 seconds away from Neal's time.

Alex MacDowall looked set join his team-mate on the second row, but was pipped on the last lap by Triple 8 Engineering driver James Nash.

Mat Jackson made it four marques and five teams in the top six with a late 48.667s effort in his Motorbase Performance Ford Focus.

Arena Motorsport Ford Focus driver Tom Chilton set a time good enough for second in the first half of the session, but his 48.384s effort was disallowed when he failed a ride height check.

The team worked hard to rectify the problem and Chilton returned to the track for the final eight minutes. He managed a best of 48.668s to take seventh, just ahead of Tom Boardman's Special Tuning SEAT Leon.

Frank Wrathall was the fastest of the new NGTC machines, taking 20th in his Dynojet Toyota Avensis. David Pinkney's NGTC Audi A4 did not emerge from the Rob Austin Racing garage to qualify.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Matt Neal Honda 48.210s 2. Andrew Jordan Eurotech Vauxhall 48.465s + 0.255s 3. Jason Plato Chevrolet 48.583s + 0.373s 4. James Nash Triple 8 Vauxhall 48.623s + 0.413s 5. Alex MacDowall Chevrolet 48.658s + 0.448s 6. Mat Jackson Motorbase Ford 48.667s + 0.457s 7. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 48.668s + 0.458s 8. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 48.752s + 0.542s 9. Paul O'Neill Tech-Speed Chevrolet 48.849s + 0.639s 10. Andy Neate Arena Ford 49.036s + 0.826s 11. Tony Gilham Triple 8 Vauxhall 49.045s + 0.835s 12. Rob Collard WSR BMW 49.130s + 0.920s 13. Jeff Smith Eurotech Vauxhall 49.176s + 0.966s 14. Liam Griffin Motorbase Ford 49.220s + 1.010s 15. Dave Newsham Geoff Steel BMW 49.248s + 1.038s 16. Tom Onslow-Cole AmD Volkswagen 49.540s + 1.330s 17. Nick Foster WSR BMW 49.587s + 1.377s 18. John George Tech-Speed Chevrolet 50.065s + 1.855s 19. Chris James ES Chevrolet 51.169s + 2.959s 20. Frank Wrathall Dynojet Toyota 51.449s + 3.239s 21. Tony Hughes Speedworks Toyota 51.736s + 3.526s 22. Gordon Shedden Honda 

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