Qualifying: Title rivals take a pole apiece

James Thompson and Matt Neal took a pole each for rounds 13 and 14 of the BTCC at Snetterton tomorrow (Sunday). The two championship-leading Vauxhall drivers were running on minimum weight following retirements in round 12 at Croft and saw off the challenge of the ever-improving Honda and MG works teams

Qualifying: Title rivals take a pole apiece

Both drivers were disappointed to have missed out on a double pole - Thompson feeling that he'd out-smarted himself by saving all his new tyre allocation for qualifying and races. "When I put the new tyres on the balance wasn't there - far too much oversteer, spectacular but not quick." That, he felt gave the initiative in the first part of qualifying to Neal, who grabbed it gratefully, and pole for the sprint race.

A quick adjustment mid-session brought the balance back for Thompson and he took a big chunk off Neal's earlier time to take pole provisionally. Neal had more to come too though and came within 0.167s of Thompson's time, before a too-close encounter with a BTC production car put him off into the maize field between Riches and Sear. "There was more to come," he said.

Position three on each grid also went to a Vauxhall. For round 13 that's Paul O'Neill, who was well-pleased to stick in a quick lap before being hobbled by gearbox problems that condemned him to only 17th for round 14. Yvan Muller had a left-rear puncture and traffic problems in part one of the session, but pulled out the stops to put his maximum-weight Astra third for the feature race. "I was really on my limit to do the time," he admitted.

The Hondas and MGs packed the next few grid slots. Andy Priaulx and Alan Morrison each took a fourth place for Honda, Priaulx for the sprint. Morrision was particularly disappointed to have missed out on a better time with his minimum-weight car. "We had something in hand," said Morriosn, "but then the front suspension collapsed." Front damper failures were the problem. The team had time to change one for the second part of the session, but not the other, so his quickest non-Vauxhall time of the day was a good effort.

Warren Hughes lines up fifth for both races, disappointed to have missed out in traffic, but admitting that he could only have gone one or two tenths quicker. Hughes also had a couple of high-speed moments on the exit of Coram.

Rounding out the top six were Gareth Howell for the sprint and Anthony Reid for the feature. Howell's place in the Team Atomic Kitten ZS the best for an Independent this weekend.

Gavin Pyper took a double pole in the Alfa in BTC Production. "He's moaning, but happy - he's Scottish," commented team boss Steve Neal. Points leader James Kaye shared the second slots with Peugeot driver Mark Fullalove.

Matt Neal (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m12.421s 97.03mph
James Thompson (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m12.425s 97.02mph
Paul O'Neill (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m12.774s 96.56mph
Andy Priaulx (Honda Civic Type-R) 1m12.821s 96.50mph
Warren Hughes (MG ZS) 1m12.846s 96.46mph
Gareth Howell (MG ZS) 1m12.928s 96.35mph
Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m12.940s 96.34mph
Anthony Reid (MG ZS) 1m12.994s 96.27mph
Colin Turkington (MG ZS) 1m13.129s 96.09mph
Alan Morrison (Honda Civic Type-R) 1m13.153s 96.06mph

Gavin Pyper (Alfa Romeo 156) 1m16.971s 91.29mph
Mark Fullalove (Peugeot 306 GTi) 1m17.341s 90.86mph
James Kaye (Honda Civic Type-R) 1m17.392s 90.80mph

James Thompson (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m12.016s 97.57mph
Matt Neal (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m12.183s 97.35mph
Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1m12.477s 96.95mph
Alan Morrison (Honda Civic Type-R) 1m12.546s 96.86mph
Warren Hughes (MG ZS) 1m12.560s 96.84mph
Anthony Reid (MG ZS) 1m12.637s 96.74mph
Andy Priaulx (Honda Civic Type-R) 1m12.684s 96.68mph
Colin Turkington (MG ZS) 1m12.893s 96.40mph
David Leslie (Proton Impian) 1m12.895s 96.40mph
Gareth Howell (MG ZS) 1m13.029s 96.22mph

Gavin Pyper (Alfa Romeo 156) 1m16.301s 92.09mph
James Kaye (Honda Civic Type-R) 1m16.662s 91.66mph
Norman Simon (BMW 320i) 1m16.949s 91.32mph

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