(practice report at Donington Park on: 29th July 2006)

VX Racing again proved it can lead the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship this morning when Italian, Fabrizio Giovanardi, topped the times in practice at Donington Park.

The former European Touring Car Champion was delighted with the Astra Sport Hatch's performance, declaring it "perfect" in the blistering conditions.

But despite this early indicator, it was the Banbury-based team's 21-year-old prodigy, Tom Chilton, who led the squad's three drivers in Saturday afternoon's cooler qualifying session, as Giovanardi's car developed over steer in the changing conditions.

The 39-year-old's endeavours to score his first pole position of the season were not helped when one of his best flying laps was ruined by Richard Marsh, who brought out the red flag when he parked his Peugeot 307 on the racing line.

As drivers sat waiting to rejoin the circuit, VX Racing rotated the race car's tyres, and the trick seemed to pay off as Giovanardi's first flying lap out of the pits launched him into third place from 11th.

It was not to last, though, and team-mate Chilton was the first to relegate the Italian a position when he put in a 1m12.748s lap, which earned him third place overall.

Mike Jordan's Honda Integra also inched ahead of Giovanardi in the dying seconds of the session, leaving the VXR driver in fifth place, less than three tenths-of-a-second off pole-sitter Gordon Shedden.

Gavin Smith struggled with a gear-shift problem for the entire session but was still only half-a-second off the best time of the day, with the eighth fastest time in qualifying. He was elevated to seventh on the grid, however, when Rob Collard served his six place demotion, which he received for knocking Giovanardi off the circuit at Croft two weeks ago.

Tom Chilton: "The base line of the car is very good and I'm happy with the balance. I've not decided on my set up for tomorrow ... it all depends on the temperature. But I don't mind hot or cold, I like it all.

"As for the race, I think 16 laps are plenty to make up two places. I would say I'm a clever racing driver. I hold myself back and wait for an opening, or even a sniff of an opening, before I make my move!"

Fabrizio Giovanardi: "This morning the car was perfect. It was really easy to drive and really fast. I was really confident after that. It was the first time that I'd felt the car was really easy to drive.

"In qualifying I had a strange problem. We didn't make any big changes but I developed a problem with oversteer. I'm upset because I want to know why.

"During the red flag period we changed the front and back tyres around because after two laps the front tyres normally have less performance. Swapping them sometimes changes the balance of the car and in this situation it was better."

Gavin Smith: "I'm very frustrated about that session. I think I should've gone faster but that's all in hindsight. The problem I had with the gear shift definitely restricted me. I did get faster throughout the session but I still think there were at least two-tenths-of-a-second still available.

"Despite that, the car felt great. I think the circuit suits it - it's a bit smoother here, which keeps the car settled."

John Morton, VX Racing's Technical Director: "This is the first circuit we've been to where Fabrizio had raced here before so we expected him to be up there with Tom and he was quite close - just three-hundredths-of-a-second off.

"If it's cooler tomorrow it's probably not going to be a bad thing for us - it should be good for tyre wear. I'd like to think that we'll sort Fabrizio's car out so he can stretch his legs because he showed a lot of promise this morning. They've all shown good pace at various times."

2006 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Qualitying - Round 16

1. Gordon Shedden (Honda Integra) 1:12.548
2. Colin Turkington (MG ZS) +0.113
3. Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch) +0.236
4. Mike Jordan (Honda Integra) +0.265
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch) +0.296
6. Matt Neal (Honda Integra) +0.388
7. Gavin Smith (Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch) +0.611