James Thompson fired a warning shot to his rivals in the battle for the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship as he smashed the touring car lap record at the Norfolk circuit and claimed pole position for the first of tomorrow's three races. Current championship leader, Yvan Muller, starts along side his VX Racing team mate on the front row of the grid, with Luke Hines in the third Vauxhall Astra Coupe in eighth place.
Thompson, quickest in both morning practice sessions, began qualifying with a blistering lap of one minute 11.588 seconds, which took him straight to pole, Muller followed suit and quickly claimed the second place slot as his own. A red flag shortly after the start led to a lengthy delay as the marshals cleared substantial amounts of oil from the track at Russell Bend. After the restart the field tentatively returned to the track, with VX Racing eventually deploying Hines to assess the condition of the circuit.
With only six minutes of the session remaining most of the field took to the track in a last minute dash for quicker lap times. Although the circuit was producing increasingly faster times, it did not reach the peak experienced earlier in the session. The VX Racing drivers failed to improve on their positions with Thompson taking pole, followed by Muller in second and Hines in eighth.
The three VX Racing drivers used the two morning practice sessions to fine tune their set-ups for both qualifying and race laps. In the first session all three drivers scrubbed tyres, adjusted the balance of their cars and prepared for the weekend ahead. For the second session Muller concentrated on race set up, while Thompson, after a puncture, put on new tyres, and again went quickest. Third driver, Hines, ended the second practice session in fifth place.
James Thompson, Car No. 2
"I think we had better pace to do the job, so it was reasonably comfortable. It's a shame the oil went down, it mean that some of the other guys lost time on the track. I'm really pleased with that, I needed it. I have got one more point back, which means there is only two points between me and Yvan in the championship and that's the main thing. It should be a good race tomorrow, the main two protagonists are on the front row of the grid, but it looks like we have got the edge in terms of pace, so hopefully we can capitalise on it."
Yvan Muller, Car No. 1
"To be honest it's a bit of a surprise to see two VX Racing cars on the front row. I was a bit too conservative on my first run, and I tried to attack more on my second and went off. After the restart the track was not as good as before, but it was OK, it was more in the mind than anything else. From the second practice we can see that my lap times are consistent, but they are just not quick enough."
Luke Hines, Car No. 57
"The oil on track certainly didn't help. In the first few laps we wanted to put a banker in and we managed to do that, and then the oil stuffed our session. We managed to go out again and go quicker, but it didn't improve our position. It would have been nice to have a few more laps; I think we could have improved further. Hopefully my grid position will mean that I miss out on any trouble at the start of the race, and then I'll just go for it."