Saturday 20th September
Stephen Jelley has achieved the first HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position of his career for the first of tomorrow's final three rounds of 2008 at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent.
Jelley, driving a Team RAC BMW, set the pole time in 49.297s around Brands' short Indy circuit. Second was rival BMW driver Mat Jackson (49.359s) and third in SEAT's diesel-powered Leon TDI, Darren Turner (49.401s). Less than a second covered the 17 fastest drivers.
Jelley, aged 26 from Leicester, said: "I knew on the lap out of the pit lane that pole was possible - the car felt that good. Then it was a case of stringing together the perfect lap. What a way to start the final race weekend of my debut season in the championship. I'm delighted."
Italian Fabrizio Giovanardi, who is a clear favourite to win his second consecutive BTCC title tomorrow, qualified 11th fastest in a Vauxhall Vectra VXR handicapped by 45kgs of success ballast. His only title rival Jason Plato was one position ahead in tenth in his SEAT Leon, which is laden with 36kgs of ballast. If their positions remain the same in tomorrow's first race then Giovanardi will be Champion.
Giovanardi said: "My car feels great, but just look how close the times are. I am less than 3/10ths of a second away from pole position - the extra weight makes all the difference.
"Of course I am happy to see Jason back with me - it's good for the title. Maybe we can have a good battle on the track together with of course me finishing ahead to win the championship!"
BMW Dealer Team UK driver Jackson's second position, meanwhile, puts him in a position to keep up the pressure on Team RAC's Colin Turkington in their battle for the for the Independent Drivers' title. Turkington currently leads the standings by 22 points with a possible 45 available from tomorrow's three races.
Tomorrow's final three rounds of 2008 will all be shown live on ITV4 as the channel devotes six hours of non-stop coverage from 11.30am to 5.30pm.
Leading positions, BTCC qualifying Brands Hatch (provisional):1. Stephen Jelley (GBR), Team RAC/BMW 320si, 49.297s2. Mat Jackson (GBR), BMW Dealer Team UK/BMW 320si, +0.062s3. Darren Turner (GBR), SEAT Sport UK/SEAT Leon TDI, +0.104s4. Matt Neal (GBR), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +0.127s5. Gordon Shedden (GBR), Team Halfords/Honda Civic, +0.130s6. Colin Turkington (GBR), Team RAC/BMW 320si, +0.168s7. Robert Collard (GBR), Motorbase/BMW 320si, +0.201s8. Adam Jones (GBR), Team Air Cool/SEAT Leon, +0.207s9. Steven Kane (GBR), Motorbase/BMW 320si, +0.273s10. Jason Plato (GBR), SEAT Sport UK/SEAT Leon TDI, +0.275s11. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +0.281s