Matt Neal admitted he was surprised to secure pole position for the opening rounds of the 2009 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch, bringing to an end a run of almost three years without a pole.

Neal last took pole position back in April 2006 at Mondello Park while driving a Team Halfords Honda Integra, but emerged as the man to beat during the first qualifying session of the new campaign at the wheel of his Vauxhall Vectra.

The double champion topped the times early in the session and his time, which broke the lap record posted by Yvan Muller back in 2001, proved to be unbeatable - a fact Neal admitted was a surprise.

"I'm thrilled, it was very unexpected," he said. "I thought Fabrizio, as he's on his usual top form, would take it, or the BMWs and the Hondas as they are strong; I thought even Jason (Plato) might spring a surprise on us, so I'm over the moon.

"It's important, as VX Racing has had the faith in me and I want to repay them, so this is a good start. The BMWs are quick off the line, so our strategy has to be to stay in front and keep there. If they get ahead of us they'll be very quick, so we need to just be ahead of them from the green flag."