Silverline Chevrolet duo Jason Plato and Alex MacDowall have set the benchmark around the Snetterton 300 circuit, each man leading one of the two British Touring Car practices on the new layout.

Plato topped the first of the 40-minute sessions, taking just under two minutes (1:59.797) to lap the circuit which is now a fraction under three miles in length. The defending champion was a tenth faster than Honda's Gordon Shedden, the margin, no matter how small almost certainly the latest talking point in the running battles between the turbocharged and normally aspirated cars.

James Nash was third quickest – a position the Triple Eight driver occupied at the end of both sessions – as just three drivers broke the two minute barrier, championship leader Matt Neal the first man on the other side in fourth.

The second practice saw the better part of a second taken off the times as the two works Chevrolet drivers finished the session with best laps just four hundredths apart, MacDowall's lap of 1:59.025 writing a new lap record, though this marker will likely be revised down during the weekend.

The Cumbrian driver set his fastest lap on his final lap of the session, with all the top four drivers – Nash and Neal filling third and fourth again – setting their best laps late on. Tom Chilton rounded out the top five, while the top eight dipped into the 1:59s.

Martin Byford, in his first race BTCC weekend fared well in the AmD Milltek Golf. The car was among the fastest through the three speed traps around the lap – as were trio of Team Aon Fords – and the Essex driver was as high as sixth fastest during the second practice before being shuffled backwards to complete the top ten.

BTCC newcomers Welch Motorsport have run trouble-free on debut

However, perhaps the biggest story of the paddock is the Welch Motorsport Proton. Only arriving at the track for the morning practice session, and even then missing the opening minutes as the team rushed the car into readiness.

The car, running for only the third time when driver Dan Welch fired it into life, ran without serious problem, running competitively among Lea Wood, Tony Hughes and Chris James, the Lacetti driver losing the second session to one of the only serious incidents of the day, when his car shed its right-rear wheel.

Qualifying is scheduled to begin at 3:45pm.