Saturday, October 20 2012
Matt Neal headed a Honda Civic 1-2-3 in the first practice session ahead of this weekend's Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship finale at Brands Hatch. Title leader Gordon Shedden was second, ahead of Andrew Jordan and MG's Jason Plato, as the top four dominated the order.
Three of the top four contenders were straight out of the pits as the green light came on and championship leader Shedden was immediately quickest, followed by outsider and Independents' favourite Jordan. The pair proceeded to trade times as rivals Neal and Plato worked on set-ups.
The reigning champion joined his fellow Civic runners in the top three before the leading two pitted. Plato's time at this stage was only good enough for nineteenth, but with team mate Andy Neate in the top ten, it was unlikely that this state of affairs would continue for too long. Indeed, he was soon into the top four, seven thousandths of a second adrift of Neal, so the title contenders were now heading the table.
Behind them, Aaron Smith, Ollie Jackson and Will Bratt were enjoying their chance to shine, with new boy Aaron Williamson featuring in the top ten for a while with the Team HARD S2000 Civic.
As the track continued to dry, Plato's MG became ever more competitive and he jumped to second before the session's halfway point. This signalled a temporary cessation in activity at the front of the field, however in the meantime local team Redstone's Independents' title bid was being aided by a good run from Mat Jackson in fifth place, with Aron Smith also on fine form.
Meanwhile Frank Wrathall was enduring a somewhat torrid time, pitting with a smoky engine. Also suffering early on was Tony Gilham, still developing the Vauxhall Insignia, this time in his own colours.
With ten minutes to go, Shedden broke the 1 minute 45 second barrier, taking half a second away from Jordan. Also improving was Bratt, who displaced Neal from the top four, upsetting the title order. This promoted a storming first sector time from the number 1 Civic, followed up by another two to top the table. As if to ram home the point, he went even quicker on the next lap, moments before the chequered flag came out.
Free Practice 2 will take place at 11:55am.
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Free Practice 1
1, Matt Neal, Honda Yuasa Racing Team, Honda Civic,
2, Gordon Shedden, Honda Yuasa Racing Team, Honda Civic, +0.486s
3, Andrew Jordan, Pirtek Racing, Honda Civic, +0.981s
4, Jason Plato, MG KX Momentum Racing, MG6, +1.200s
5, Will Bratt, Rob Austin Racing, Audi A4, +1.294s
6, Mat Jackson, Redstone Racing, Ford Focus ST, +1.697s
7, Dave Newsham, Team ES Racing.com, Vauxhall Vectra, +1.731s
8, Daniel Welch, Welch Motorsport, Proton Persona, +1.779s
9, Aron Smith, Redstone Racing, Ford Focus ST, +2.044s
10, Ollie Jackson, AmD Tuning.com, VW Golf, +2.085s
Tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on 20/21 October are available on the gate for £13 on Saturday and £30 on Sunday, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.