The West Countryman, the BTCC wins record holder at Thruxton, comfortably headed both of the 35-minute sessions in his One Motorsport Honda Civic Type R, raising anticipation that the Brackley squad could be on the verge of turning the tide from its disappointing start to the season.

Cook emerged from the pits in the first session when the green lights were switched on with five minutes remaining, following a red-flag stoppage for teams to be reminded by officials about the new track-limits rules, particularly at Church Corner.

This is the first weekend of competition since governing body Motorsport UK mandated the new regulations, although the BTCC has been adhering to them since the start of the season.

After that restart, Cook put in a lap that was 0.469 seconds clear of second-fastest Ash Sutton, and his second best effort was also quarter of a second clear of the championship leader’s Motorbase Performance-run Ford Focus ST.

The second session also featured a red flag, this one relatively early on and triggered by Cook’s team-mate Will Powell coming to a halt on the exit of Church, although he rejoined the fray once the session restarted.

Times stayed resolutely half a second off the early-morning best of Cook, until he stamped in a flier that was 0.1s quicker than his earlier time and 0.516s up on the runner-up, reigning champion Tom Ingram with his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N.

As in the first session, Cook set two laps quicker than the best of anyone else.

“It’s only free practice and I’m sure everyone’s going to go quicker in qualifying,” said Cook, whose best time was 0.2s slower than Dan Cammish’s qualifying lap record from 2020.

“Heading into the weekend, I thought we’d probably see a new qualifying lap record, but with the changes in track limits and the way we drive the circuit I think it’s going to be slower.

Josh Cook, One Motorsport with Starline Racing Honda Civic Type-R

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“The architecture of Church and the way it falls towards the exit kerb means that however fast you drive it, you still end up on that kerb.

“I nearly had a big moment there trying to avoid the kerb.”

Ingram’s time was good for second overall across the two sessions, while a late improvement hoisted Bobby Thompson up to third place at the wheel of his Team Hard Cupra Leon.

Sutton’s first-session best put him fourth overall – he was sixth in the second period – ahead of Motorbase Ford team-mate Dan Rowbottom, who headed the times for much of FP2 until the late improvements dropped him to fourth.

Rowbottom was narrowly ahead of Jake Hill, best of the West Surrey Racing BMW 330e M Sport quartet.

Ricky Collard’s best time in the second session gave him bragging rights among the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla trio, pipping Rory Butcher’s earlier time by 0.010s.

Rounding out the top 10 overall were Cammish (Motorbase Ford) and Aiden Moffat (One Honda).

The other main title contender, four-time champion Colin Turkington, put his WSR BMW eighth in the first session but dropped out of the top 10 in FP2.

2023-06-03T12:28:49Z dg43tfdfdgfd