Jason Plato shone brightly in first practice at a sun-blessed Silverstone, the MG KX Momentum Racing driver topping the session with a time that bettered his qualifying effort from last season.
The double champion – realistically out of the title hunt lying 62 points from the series lead – did not take long to dominate the weekend’s opening BTCC action with a lap record-breaking time of 58.498s.
Plato showed his first card late in the initial 10 minutes of the 40-minute session, trading the top spot with reigning champion Gordon Shedden who briefly took the place back from his MG rival with a time of 59.289s.
The duo’s dice was briefly interrupted by a flying Dave Newsham, the Speedworks Toyota man moving to the top of the times by 0.110s.
Plato then broke the 59s barrier and continued lowering the times, surviving a big sideways moment at Brooklands late in the session. The crowd-pleasing drift was not enough to prevent him from ending first practice on the top of the timesheets, 0.118s ahead of an impressive Newsham.
Third went to Shedden in an encouraging session for Honda, while late surges from Frank Wrathall and Tom Onslow-Cole jumped them up to fourth and fifth spots.
Championship leader Andrew Jordan was sixth despite carrying 45kg of penalty ballast for leading the championship, the top 10 rounded out by Matt Neal, Sam Tordoff, Colin Turkington and Adam Morgan.
In a tight session around the 1.6 mile National circuit, the top 16 cars were separated by less than a second, Rockingham race winner Rob Austin the last of those.
Aiden Moffat rounded out the 26 drivers present at Silverstone on his Team HARD debut in the Volkswagen Passat, while team-mate Warren Scott was impressive as he classified 14th.
The session was haunted by several drivers being shown the black flag for disrespecting the track limits at Copse corner, an offence expected to be clamped down on more significantly this weekend at Silverstone. Shedden, Morgan and Aron Smith were the drivers on the receiving end of the flags, Shedden not a happy man afterwards.
Lea Wood beat Liam Griffin in the Jack Sears Trophy class, one that sees the pair entering Silverstone as the only S2000 competitors with David Nye no longer competing in the series.
– Second practice gets underway at 12:15 this afternoon, and you can follow the action with thecheckeredflag or on Twitter by @tcfBTCC.