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Matt Neal beats title rivals to take pole

Matt Neal has taken the final pole position of the 2011 British Touring Car Championship, seeing off title rival Mat Jackson for the top spot by just 0.035 seconds.

In a closely fought qualifying session it was two-time champion Neal who emerged as the fastest, having set a lap time of 59.131 seconds with just three minutes left in the session.

Click here for the full Round 28 Qualifying times.

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The times at the top were continuously being traded between the championship protagonists, with Airwaves Racing’s Mat Jackson the fastest for much of the session. Gordon Shedden also took the top spot several times, but had to settle for third on the grid for the first race tomorrow.

Triple Eight’s James Nash never quite had the pace to take the top spot but was as high as second in the session, before being demoted to fourth in the closing minutes.

The top Chevrolet driver was Alex MacDowall, who set the fifth best time. Crucially his championship-battling team-mate Jason Plato will start directly behind him on the grid in 7th, with just Tom Chilton splitting the two works Chevrolet drivers.

Andy Neate was an impressive eighth, securing his second-best qualifying performance of the season. Indeed Neate managed to outqualify his more experienced Team Aon team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole for the first time this season.

Completing the top ten and also the fastest NGTC driver was Dynojet’s Frank Wrathall.

Having shown promise in the second practice session, Tom Boardman qualified in eleventh and was just 0.504 seconds off the pole position pace. Alongside him on the sixth row of the grid is Andrew Jordan. The Pirtek Racing team endured mixed fortunes, with Jeff Smith qualifying last having experienced a problematic session.

David Newsham, who was second fastest in the practice session prior to qualifying, could manage just 13th in qualifying. Paul O’Neill, unlike the works Chevrolet drivers, was unable to find much more pace from practice and will start 14th for the first race on Sunday.

On his return to the BTCC James Thompson qualified within one second of the pace but could still only manage 15th, having been forced to carry an extra 45kg of ballast as a late entry, despite the Airwaves team having run a third car for the two meetings previous.

29 cars took to the track during the qualifying session, with only John Thorne failing to set a time on his and his Thorney Motorsport team’s first weekend in the championship.

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