British driver James Thompson made the perfect start to the defence of his FIA European Touring Car Cup title after he grabbed pole position for the opening race of the series at Braga in Portugal.

Thompson, who won the one off race at the wheel of a Hartmann Honda Racing Honda Accord, lapped the 3km Braga track in a time of 1m22.740, beating the potent BMW 320si cars of WTCC Independent Kristian Poulsen (1m22.811) and of local hero Cesar Campanico (1m22.894s).

With this best time, Thompson smashed the S2000 lap record by 2.1 seconds, while the S1600 pole sitter, Jens Lohnig in his Ford Fiesta had to beat the S1600 lap record by over 2 seconds to secure top spot.

Early in the session, it was Danish racer Poulsen who set the pace, a lap of 1m23.791, before Thompson took sixth tenths out of it with a 1m23.108s, which was then beaten by the BMW of Campanico, who set a 1m23.064s.

After the pit stops for tyres, it was Poulsen who then responded by bettering Campanico's best effort, by setting a 1m23.041, but soon enough, Thompson responded with a new best effort, and the first driver to break into the 1m22's in qualifying, with the lap that would prove to be the fastest of the session, a 1m22.740s. Poulsen and Campanico both improved their times, but not enough to better Thompson's best time.

Behind the top 3, the best of the rest was the Sunred Engineering Seat Leon 2.0 TFSi of Michael Rossi, who set the fourth best time of a 1m23.401s, over sixth tenths slower than Thompson's time.

Pole man Thompson was delighted to secure pole for the first race, and said about his qualifying session: “It's nice to restart with a pole position. This is my first race after the accident in Macau last November and I spent most of the winter to recover. I was impressed by the pace of the BMW cars. I had to push to the limit to beat them and it will not be easy to do it again tomorrow, but I'm confident because the team worked very well in setting my car up. It should be very competitive on the race distance too.”

Second on the grid, and the first BMW driver Kristian Poulsen said: “I am very happy with my second place. This is my first time in Braga and I took my time to learn the track. It paid off because I was able to consistently improve my lap times and we have also worked a lot on the race set up. So I am confident.”

Second of the BMW's and third on the grid is local star Campanico: “It was a very close qualifying today. I pushed very hard and I am satisfied, because I managed to improve my personal lap time here in Braga. Tomorrow we will have a couple of very tough and close races. I'm looking forward to them, because this is my home track and I would like to achieve a brilliant result.”

The only driver in the Super Production class of the ETCC is reining Champion, Latvian Mircis Birkens, who said after qualifying: “I am disappointed, because I could not qualify properly. My car had a problem with the gear shifting and it was not possible to fix it in time. We will fix it for tomorrow, though. Obviously with no other competitors in the class my first goal is to finish the races, but I would also like to improve my pace compared to last year and fight with some of the slowest S2000 cars.”

Pole in the S1600 class went to German Jens Lohnig in his Ford Fiesta ST, who said about his session: “The team did an excellent job. They set the car up in the best way and it was easy for me to drive around and improve by two seconds compared to this morning. I think my car is very well balanced, so it should also be competitive in the races. I really hope to continue setting the pace and I am confident that we can fight for the title tomorrow.”

Position Number Class Driver Nation Car Time
1 1 S2000 James Thompson GBR Honda Accord Euro R 1:22.740
2 11 S2000 Kristian  Poulsen DEN BMW 320si E90 1:22.811
3 9 S2000 Cesar Campanico POR BMW 320si E90 1:22.894
4 12 S2000 Michael  Rossi FRA Seat Leon 2.0 TFSi 1:23.401
5 2 S2000 Tomas Engstrom SWE Honda Accord Euro R 1:23.462
6 3 S2000 Marin Colak CRO Seat Leon 2.0 TFSi 1:23.651
7 8 S2000 Timur Sadredinov RUS Seat Leon 2.0 TFSi 1:23.996
8 13 S2000 Ibrahim Okyay TUR BMW 320si E90 1:24.553
9 6 S2000 Yuriy Protasov UKR BMW 320i E46 1:26.895
10 7 S2000 Leonid Protasov UKR BMW 320i E46 1:28.492
* 72 S1600 Jens Lohrig GER Ford Fiesta ST 1:29.638
* 5 S2000 Irina Protasova UKR BMW 320i E46 1:29.942
* 71 S1600 Carsten Seifert GER Ford Fiesta ST 1:30.822
* 51 SP Mircis Berkins LAT Honda Civic Type R 1:32.360
* 73 S1600 Florian Heitmeier GER Ford Fiesta 1:39.444

Cars 72, 5, 71, 51 and 73 were below the qualification maxima of 1:28.531.

The races will be shown on Eurosport 2 at 4.30pm and 5pm tomorrow, the races aren't being shown live on TV, but live timing will be available via