1994 British Touring Car Champion Gabriele Tarquini proved that his second place I the feature race at Donington Park earlier this year was just a sign of things to come as he outpaced the field to record the fastest time in testing for Rounds 17 and 18 of the championship at Donington Park.

The Italian Honda Accord driver has the advantage of no success ballast which will be a great handicap around the Melbourne Loop and the Fogarty Chicane this weekend. His best time of 1 minute 35.954 seconds beat off the Ford Mondeo of Rickard Rydell by a fraction over a tenth of a second.

The Swedish Ford pilot showed his determination to overhaul Championship leader Alain Menu despite having 20 kilograms of ballast in his car. Rydell and Tarquini were the class of the field with the third placed Honda of Tom Kristensen finishing the test nearly four tenths slower than the Ford man.

Anthony Reid was expecting more from his ballast-less Mondeo but could only mange fourth place with a best time of 1 minute 36.520 seconds. The Scottish driver has admitted that if he wishes to continue threatening Menu and Rydell in the title chase he must break his victory duck this year and has pointed to Donington as being a make or break round for him.

Jason Plato once again finished the test as the fastest Vauxhall pilot even though he carries the maximum 40 kilos of ballast. The Englishman was fifth quickest with a best mark of 1 minute 36.668 seconds, a full four tenths and four places ahead of team-leader Yvan Muller.

Points leader Menu found himself similarly laden to Plato and although he couldn't match the pace of the Vectra, he got to within seven thousandths of a second behind the Englishman.

Matt Neal was presented with his first real Independent competition of the year as David Leslie made his first appearance in the PRO Motorsport Nissan Primera. The veteran Scottish driver could not match the times of the lanky Englishman but was closer, his best lap just three tenths slower than Neal but ahead of the third factory Vauxhall of Vincent Radermecker. The two Primera's finished the day eighth and tenth overall.

Testing results - Thursday (Top Ten only)

1. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Honda Accord 1 min 35.954secs.
2. Rickard Rydell SWE Ford Mondeo 1 min 36.172secs.
3. Tom Kristensen DEN Honda Accord 1 min 36.514secs.
4. Anthony Reid GB Ford Mondeo 1 min 36.520secs.
5. Jason Plato GB Vauxhall Vectra 1 min 36.668secs.
6. Alain Menu SWI Ford Mondeo 1 min 36.675secs.
7. James Thomspon GB Honda Accord 1 min 36.724secs.
8. Matt Neal GB Nissan Primera (I) 1 min 36.784secs.
9. Yvan Muller FRA Vauxhall Vectra 1 min 37.060secs.
10. David Leslie GB Nissan Primera 1 min 37.168secs.

Times courtesy of Honda.