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Fords fly in first free practice

Tom Chilton set the pace in this morning’s first practice session at Rockingham, topping the time sheets with a time of 1:23.693 from the Honda of Matt Neal. Tom Onslow-Cole proved the pace of the Team Aon Ford Focus’ by setting the third fastest time.

Click here to view the full times from first practice.

Chilton’s time was faster than any set at the Northamptonshire circuit last year. Team Honda’s Neal only just missed out on the top spot himself, setting a time just 0.018 seconds slower than Chilton. With both Chilton and Onslow-Cole running LPG power this year their performance further underlines the straightline speed advantage of their cars – something which concerned Jason Plato before the season even began.

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Fourth fastest was the second works Honda of Gordon Shedden, with Plato himself setting the fifth fastest time after only completing 6 laps due to sensor problems. Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan was sixth fastest, whilst the top BMW driver was Mat Jackson after he set the seventh fastest time.

James Nash makes his return to the BTCC this weekend with Triple Eight. The 24-year-old, who made his BTCC debut last season with RML, was 9th fastest in the newly liveried Vauxhall Vectra which will be promoting the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Avatar this weekend.

Arthur Forster made his and Forster Motorsport’s BTCC debut in this practice session, although the former Mini racer was the slowest runner in the field. After his team missed the opening races of the season waiting for their engines to be repaired by BMW in Germany they were hoping to start at full strength this weekend. However due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallaj√∂kull volcano in Iceland, Forster’s team-mate Martin Depper was unable to return to the UK in time and they will therefore field the one car this weekend.

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