Gordon Shedden topped a Honda dominated first British Touring Car Championship practice at Thruxton, setting the fastest lap by more than a season as all four NGTC-spec Civics were inside the top six in the Hampshire rain.
Shedden and Honda Yuasa Racing teammate Matt Neal led the way though almost the entire session, the duo swapping the honour of fastest time throughout the 40-minute session. Redstone Racing driver – and Donington Park winner – Mat Jackson was the man who set the pace during the early going , but the works Honda pairing soon took the front places.
Shedden initially went fastest with a lap of 1:22.807 before Neal found six tenths over a succession of laps to take the top spot back.
The fastest lap of the session came shortly after the halfway point, Shedden lapping the sodden track in 1:20.968, 1.052 seconds faster than Neal could manage.
The top two remained unchanged for the rest of the session, though championship leader Jason Plato slotted his MG6 into third, just two-hundredths slower than Neal's time, then with a further 0.8 back to Rob Collard.
Pirtek Racing – running the other pair of brand new Civics – were fifth and sixth with Andrew Jordan and Jeff Smith. However, in contrast to their works run counterparts both drivers endured problems during the session. Jordan lost the first half of the session as the team worked to change an alternator. He was unleashed on to the track rattling off five laps, the final and best of which as timed at 1:23.343, but at the end of the following lap Jordan pulled off on the approach to the chicane, bringing out yellow flags with ten minutes of the session left.
Into the yellow flag zone came Jeff Smith, who spun onto the grass and across the chicane, pushing one of the bales guarding the run off area into the middle of the track, prompting a red flag.
The session restarted with five minutes remaining with most drivers making the most of the track time available to grab a last few laps of running. Few drivers improved, though one was Adam Morgan who, after taking his first BTCC points at Donington Park finished the session seventh fastest.
Dave Newsham, Mat Jackson and Lea Wood – who shone in the rain at Oulton Park last year in his Integra – completed the top ten.
The Pirtek duo were not the only ones to hit problems during the session. Tom Onslow–Cole only completed eight laps of practice after the eBay Motors team spent the first half of the session replacing a rear suspension upright. Andy Neate failed to complete a flying lap, ending the session in the pits with MG KX Momentum Racing crew members examining the car with both the bonnet and boot up in search of a solution.
Rob Austin spent the entire session waiting on an engine to arrive, the Audi squad dogged by engine repeated engine failures and now waiting on a unit to arrive at Thruxton.