Stephen Jelley enjoyed a solid start to his home round of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship season after setting the pace for Team RAC during the opening free practice session at Donington Park.
Jelley posted a quickest time of 1min 13.634secs in the closing stages of the session to outpace the Chevrolet of Jason Plato by just over a tenth of a second. Rob Collard in his Airwaves BMW slotted into third place ahead of Fabrizio Giovanardi's Vauxhall, while the top six was completed by James Thompson's Team Dynamics Honda Civic and the second Airwaves car in the hands of BTCC rookie Jonthan Adam.
Points leader Matt Neal could manage only ninth in his ballast heavy Vectra while Mat Jackson – winner on his return to the series at Thruxton last time out – was 14th as he worked on set-up of his Chevrolet Lacetti.
Notable improvement came from the Team Aon Ford Focus, with Tom Chilton clearly benefitting from revisions to the car to post the twelfth quickest time, while Alan Morrison also climbed from the bottom of the times although he was still down in 18th place.
Thruxton hero Paul O'Neill was one of a number of drivers in the wars after he suffered a spin into the gravel at the Old Hairpin in his sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Honda Integra, while Liam McMillan also went off at Coppice in his Maxtreme SEAT Toledo.
Nick Leason was well off the pace with a clutch issue in the only diesel-powered car on the grid – the AFM Racing BMW 120d – while an engine failure meant Dan Eaves failed to set a time. That came after the Cartridge World Carbon Zero Racing team had been forced to burn the mid-night oil to ensure Eaves was able to take part in the weekend following the damage his car sustained last time out at Thruxton.