Wrathall on top in first Rockingham practice
17 September 2011 – Despite the turbo boost restriction for NGTC runners, Frank Wrathall topped the opening BTCC practice session at Rockingham on Saturday morning. The Dynojet driver was followed by the pair of Silverline Chevrolets, with Knockhill winner Tom Chilton fourth and Honda pairing Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal eighth and tenth.
With a best effort of 1:24.608, Wrathall’s timesheet-topper was a tenth of a second quicker than reigning Champion Jason Plato and marks the first occasion on which an NGTC (Next Generation Touring Car) entry has topped a timed session. With Alex MacDowell confirming two Chevrolets in the first trio, the top five was completed by the aforementioned Chilton’s Aon Focus and the Pirtek Vectra of Andrew Jordan.
Following his disastrous outing at Knockhill, which featured three non-finishes from as many races, erstwhile championship leader Mat Jackson managed sixth for Airwaves as latest BTCC victor Tom Boardman was seventh. Championship leader Shedden – with the maximum 45 kilogrammes of success ballast on-board - was the quickest Honda, nine tenths down on Wrathall, as the two Team Dynamics-prepared cars sandwiched the ever-improving Audi A4 of Rob Austin.
On his championship debut, Michael Caine was 15th in a third Airwaves Focus as series returnee Tony Gilham – now with Geoff Steel Racing – finished 24th. Daniel Welch (13th) and Lea Wood (25th) both hit problems and were forced to stop on-track. Despite being at the bottom of the timesheets, Team ES Racing’s Chris James posted the highest number of laps, with 21 to his name.
Rockingham’s second practice session begins at 12:20pm local time (BST)