Yvan Muller's long standing qualifying lap record at Brands Hatch has finally fallen after Matt Neal stormed to the first pole position of the new HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship season at the Kent circuit.
Muller's benchmark of 48.942secs had stood since April 2001, but was bettered by no fewer than three drivers during the opening qualifying session of the new campaign.
Of the trio, it was Neal who emerged on top with a best lap of 48.857secs at the wheel of his VX Racing Vauxhall Vectra, although the former champion was pushed all the way by team-mate and defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi, who finished just 0.020secs behind.
Continuing the solid form he showed in pacing the second practice session, Rob Collard was third for the Airwaves BMW team and was only 0.069secs away from pole as he too dipped below Muller's record.
Colin Turkington, pole-sitter for the season opener twelve months ago, was fourth quickest for Team RAC while Andrew Jordan completed a strong session for the factory Vauxhall squad with the fifth quickest time ahead of his debut for the team this weekend. The top six was completed by BTCC debutant Jonathan Adam in the second of the Airwaves cars.
Gordon Shedden was seventh quickest for Team Dynamics – his Honda Civic now sporting lurid yellow flames along the side as opposed to the silver ones seen during testing – while Stephen Jelley was unable to replicate his pole-setting performance from the 2008 season finale as he took eighth on the grid, having brought out the red flags when he slid off at Paddock Hill Bend.
Jason Plato was ninth at the wheel of his RML-run Chevrolet Lacetti, while Adam Jones completed the top ten for the new Cartridge World Carbon Zero Racing team.
Harry Vaulkhard missed out on a top ten place by just 0.038secs for the new Tempus Sport team while the returning Dan Eaves took a solid twelfth in the second Cartridge World SEAT, with John George leading the BTC-spec runners in 13th.
Series veteran Dave Pinkney was 14th ahead of Martyn Bell and Tom Chilton, who could manage only 16th on the grid for the debut of the new Team Aon Ford Focus, with Liam McMillan, Martin Johnson, Alan Morrison and Nick Leason rounding out the line-up.
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