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Matt Neal on pole for season opener

Matt Neal has taken pole position for the first race of the season, beating the day’s early pace-setter Andrew Jordan to the top spot by 0.255 seconds. Neal, who has not taken a pole position in qualifying since the 2009 season opener, was comfortably on top after setting several laps that would have scored him pole position.

Click here for the full times from the qualifying session.

Jordan, in the Pirtek Racing Vauxhall Vectra, will line up alongside him on the front row of the grid. It was a particularly successful day for Jordan as he had previously topped the two practice sessions in his turbo TOCA NGTC engine.

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Jason Plato will line up third on the grid and as the fastest of the normally aspirated drivers after setting a time 0.373 off Neal’s best lap. Plato was clearly pushing hard as evidenced when he lost the back of his car going into Clearways and running wide into the gravel. Joining him on the second row of the grid will be James Nash after an impressive run in the Triple Eight turbo-powered Vectra.

Fifth on the grid will be the second works Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall, who was just within a second of the pole time. Mat Jackson improved on his earlier practice form to put the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus sixth on the grid.

Tom Chilton, in the new Team Aon ‘global’ Ford Focus, had to settle for seventh – notably being beaten by Jackson in the older-spec car that Chilton himself raced last season. Chilton had previously set a faster time in the first part of the session but later saw it disallowed when he failed a ride-height check. Tom Boardman will begin from eighth tomorrow – he had earlier shown good pace in practice and had been as high as fourth in first practice.

Paul O’Neill will begin the first race from ninth – a position he has been hovering around all weekend thus far. It is his and team-mate John George’s (18th on the grid) first event in the NA Chevrolet Cruze.

Failing to take to the track during the session were Gordon Shedden and David Pinkney. Shedden’s car was being rebuilt by the Honda Racing mechanics after he suffered a massive 10G accident at Paddock Hill bend in the second practice session. The cause of the accident is not completely clear but is belived to be tyre-related. At the time of writing it is uncertain whether he will race tomorrow as the team face a race against time to repair his crippled Civic in time.

Pinkney and his Rob Austin Racing team were facing their own race against time – albeit theirs is to get their car ready in time. The new NGTC Audi A4 spent all day in the team’s garage as last-minute preparations were made – and problems fixed. According to Pinkney the team were hampered by a faulty injector and hope to start the first race from the pit lane tomorrow – despite the car not having been seen yet let alone turned a wheel.

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