Qualifying: Muller at the double

The British Touring Car Championship may be going on what could be termed a 'blind date' on Saturday night under the darkness of the Silverstone evening races, but there was precious little in the way of 'surprise surprises' - to complete the Cilla Black theme - in qualifying on Saturday afternoon

Qualifying: Muller at the double

Yvan Muller, fully laden with 60kg of success ballast, planted his Vauxhall Astra Coupe firmly on pole position for both races from Jason Plato, who overcame various problems in testing and free practice to push his French team mate close.

Muller's fastest time of the session came right at the beginning. Then, in the closing minutes, Plato set a time good enough to surpass Muller's second fastest effort and edge into pole position for the feature race. But back came the championship leader to wrap up a double pole.

"I made a good time at the beginning of the session because I started with four new tyres," said Muller. "They were more or less at the same temperature and I didn't have too much understeer.

"Then we put on new front tyres but there was too much understeer. So we changed our plan and I came in early and put on four new tyres again, and then it was OK. This bloody understeer though - I hate it!"

Muller also feels that his ballast is hampering the handling on his Astra: "It's huge - I can feel it especially on braking, and in every corner the car is rolling a lot. I worry when we get to Mondello Park for the next round - the Vauxhalls will have another 30kg on top of our success ballast and that's a tight circuit with nowhere to cool the brakes."

Egg Sport Vauxhall racer Phil Bennett did a great job to outqualify team mate James Thompson for the first time, but with Thompson reeling off a string of consistent laps he outpaced the newcomer for third on the sprint race grid.

Peugeot's Steve Soper got closer than ever to the Vauxhalls, with Dan Eaves close at hand and the Lexus of Kurt Luby just behind, but the Alfa Romeos are struggling. Tim Harvey's 147 coasted to a halt after his out lap with engine problems which necessitate a change for the race.

Continuing the theme of predictable polemen, Simon Harrison was quickest in the Production session, the HTML Peugeot driver outpacing Norwegian team mate Roger Moen by a clear 0.6s. It was a disastrous session for Barwell Motorsport - both James Kaye and Simon Graves suffered blown engines on their Honda Accords and will have to start from the rear of the grid - the penalty for executing an engine change during the meeting.

Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m28.388s
Jason Plato (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m28.443s
James Thompson (Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m28.917s
Phil Bennett (Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m29.086s
Steve Soper (Peugeot 406 Coupe) 1m29.268s
Dan Eaves (Peugeot 406 Coupe) 1m29.666s
Kurt Luby (ABG Motorsport Lexus IS200) 1m29.909s
Dave Pinkney (JSM Alfa Romeo 147) 1m31.650s
* Tim Harvey (JSM Alfa Romeo 147) 20m18.538s

Muller 1m28.483s
Plato 1m28.508s
Bennett 1m28.758s
Thompson 1m28.822s
Soper 1m29.144s
Eaves 1m29.711s
Luby 1m29.929s
Pinkney 1m31.365s
* Harvey 2m07.518s

Simon Harrison (HTML Peugeot 306) 1m32.022s
Roger Moen (HTML Peugeot 306) 1m32.609s
Gavin Pyper (GA Janspeed Alfa Romeo 156) 1m32.725s
Paul O'Neill (Techspeed Peugeot 306) 1m33.769s
James Kaye (Barwell Motorsport Honda Accord) 1m33.826s
Matt Kelly (Bintcliffe Sport Nissan Primera) 1m34.117s
Gareth Howell (GR Motorsport Ford Focus) 1m34.228s
* = will start from back after engine change

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