The first practice session for the seventh Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship round at Knockhill saw Rob Austin pull a sterling lap out of his locker to top early proceedings in a misty Scotland.
The Wix Racing Audi driver appeared at the head of the times late in the 40-minute practice session with a lap of 53.221s in a tight session that saw the top 20 cars covered by a mere 1.147s.
Much of the session saw Jason Plato‘s name heading the way as the front-runners eventually began to show their hand halfway into the 40 minutes, the MG KX Momentum Racing man leading the way by just 0.003s over Andrew Jordan as the title contenders showed themselves.
The MG man was soon overturned by championship leader Matt Neal as the final 10 minutes descended of the BTCC competitors, but the Honda Yuasa Racing driver’s time at the top was brief as Austin pulled his session-heading lap out of the bag with five minutes remaining.
Another late surprise lap came from Adam Morgan, the Ciceley Racing driver lying 0.067s off Austin after a strong session for the Toyota man.
Another Toyota driver ran into trouble, Dave Newsham having an excursion due to suspension failure at Seat Curves which left the Avensis parked up off the circuit, although the Inverness driver still managed to claim ninth place overall.
Behind Austin and Morgan, Neal was the best of the title contenders in third ahead of Plato, Rob Collard the best of the eBay Motors BMWs in fifth. Sixth place was Jordan’s result after falling to the late flurry of quick times, Nick Foster finishing seventh ahead of Gordon Shedden, Newsham and Tom Onslow-Cole who had run in the top five for much of the session.
Colin Turkington had a quiet run to 11th, while 13th was an impressive result for Mike Bushell making his BTCC debut with IP Tech Race Engineering.
Austin’s team-mate Will Bratt finished 12th overall, his session hindered somewhat as he told thecheckeredflag.co.uk: “It’s been going well for us so far, but I had a power steering problem in that session which isn’t good.”
Paul O’Neill also starred on his BTCC return in the early minutes by topping the session, eventually falling to 17th behind Sam Tordoff and Frank Wrathall, while Jack Sears Trophy leader Lea Wood topped the S2000 runners.