Matt Neal was fastest in Green Flag British Touring Car qualifying to take pole position for the first of tomorrow's (Sunday) three championship rounds at the Kent circuit, but the shock of the day was fellow Honda driver James Kaye - third fastest for the tiny Synchro team.

In the title race, championship leaders Yvan Muller and James Thompson were second and fourth fastest, but chief rival Anthony Reid was way down in 15th.

Neal, in the Computeach Racing with Halfords team's Honda Civic, achieved his first pole position of 2004 in a time of 49.332 seconds - an average speed of 89.48mph. Provided he takes up his position on tomorrow's starting grid, Neal, who currently lies fifth in the championship standings, will earn a bonus point.

"I've not had the results I wanted lately so it's great to be back at the top of the times," said Neal after the session. "It was hard work - I knew Yvan was improving all the time so I had to respond and I'll admit I had a few moments on the way!"

Muller, the reigning champion in his Vauxhall Astra, was 0.147s adrift of Neal, but crucially two places ahead of Thompson, who trails him by just a point at the top of the championship. Splitting them in third was the excellent Kaye whose performance delighted his Synchro Motorsport crew - made up of employees from Honda UK's road car division in Swindon.

"Considering the team is a small group of people who do this for a hobby and on a very small budget compared to most, this is an outstanding achievement," said a very happy James Kaye. "We've always shown potential only for bad luck to get in our way, but we've re-grouped and have got a great car."

In a completely different mood after qualifying was Reid. He was just over six tenths of a second from pole position but so close were times around the tight Brands Indy circuit that he still ended up back in 15th position. Reid has been fastest in the last two qualifying sessions, but this time, with his WSR MG ZS handicapped by maximum success ballast, he was unable to challenge for the top spot.

"The car simply lacked grip at both ends and I just couldn't get it hooked up to set a fast lap," said Reid. "I still think I can salvage a good points haul from this. The aim now has to be to get tenth in the first race which, with the reversed grid rule, will put me on pole for the second race, but it's going to be hard work."

Behind fourth-fastest Thompson came Vauxhall's Luke Hines and Team Honda's Tom Chilton. SEAT Sport UK's Robert Huff, GA Motorsports' Stefan Hodgetts - giving the team's Alfa Romeo its best qualifying position so far in 2004 - and Neal's team-mate Dan Eaves were seventh, eighth and ninth respectively. Completing the top ten was SEAT's Jason Plato.



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