Tom Ingram emerged quickest from the only official British Touring Car Championship pre-season test ahead of Rob Austin and the returning Chris Smiley.
Ingram clocked a quickest time of 1:09.995 in the second hour of testing, just half a second shy of the qualifying lap record around the 1.95 mile Donington Park circuit, to edge out Austin by 0.114 seconds.
With Dunlop predicting their new SportMaxx compound could improve lap times by as much as 0.5 seconds per mile on last season’s pace, Ingram’s pace was all the more ominous amid rumours Speedworks elected to run their session with ballast onboard the Toyota Avensis.
The Mercedes A-Class duo of Adam Morgan and Aiden Moffat made a late surge to fourth and sixth respectively, sandwiching the Eurotech Honda of Jack Goff.
Tom Chilton finished the session as the highest of ten manufacturer-backed entries, claiming eighth on the timesheets with a 1:10.658 in Power Maxed Racing’s new Vauxhall Astra Coupe. Team-mate Senna Proctor struggled with mileage, completing just 14 laps.
With a number of teams disguising pace ahead of the series opener at Brands Hatch in a fortnight, 17th for Jason Plato was the highest Subaru fared, with Honda only marginally better in 11th with defending champion Gordon Shedden, who complained of brake issues early on.
Other teams spent the four-hour test ironing out problems on their new challengers – BMW finally clocked some mileage on their new B48 engine amidst teething issues, whilst Dave Newsham was another to struggle with braking in the Chevrolet Cruze.
Four red flag stoppages punctuated proceedings, with rookie Luke Davenport kicking off proceedings after exiting the circuit at the Old Hairpin – beaching his Shredded Wheat-backed Ford Focus ST in the process. Team-mate Martin Depper also brought the session to a halt after kicking gravel up across the third sector.
Will Burns’ first laps in the Volkswagen CC were halted in the final hour as the front-left wheel came loose and detached itself, whilst an off for Aron Taylor-Smith’s MG6 completed the interruptions.
The test provided thirty of the championship’s capacity thirty-two entrants with valuable mileage before Brands Hatch, with several set to round off their pre-season running before heading to Kent. For now though, an Avensis sits atop the pile for the second year in succession.