BMW and WSR locked out the third row in the fastest British Touring Car Championship qualifying session of the year at Thruxton on Saturday.

Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport’s Jake Hill and Team BMW’s Colin Turkington – who are both contenders for this year’s title – put their BMW 330e M Sports fifth and sixth on the grid for the first of Sunday’s three races.

This was after relentless session at the BTCC’s quickest track, which turned into a five-minute dash for pole position after a late stoppage.

Kent racer Jake had set his best time of the session just before the red flags and was followed swiftly by four-time champion Colin. Neither driver improved after the stoppage as track conditions began to fall away, but secured fifth and sixth.

Fellow Team BMW drivers Adam Morgan and Stephen Jelley qualified 15th and 16th; Adam losing a time that would have put him inside the top-10 to a track-limit offence.

All the races will be broadcast live from 1155 on Sunday on ITV4.

Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport), said: “Fifth isn’t too bad. It’s about as good as we could have hoped for because we’re missing something compared to the car on pole. It’s good to be the fastest BMW driver and the rhythm I have with the car is good. We’re just going to have to do the best we can tomorrow and bag whatever points we can. If I can finish higher than I start in all three races, I think I’d be pretty satisfied with that.”

Colin Turkington (Team BMW) said: “I think that’s the best we could have done today so I’m quite satisfied with sixth. Thruxton is always a real challenge. Getting a laptime here isn’t about being brave, it’s about being smooth and disciplined. The BMW improved through each run but the track really didn’t get any quicker. We’re set-up quite well for tomorrow, we always race better than we qualify here and hopefully the warm weather will play to our favour.”

Adam Morgan (Team BMW) said: “I’ve struggled with the balance today and didn’t really get ‘on it’ until qualifying, where I felt we took a bit step forward with the BMW. The eighth row isn’t where I want to be, but I know I had the one-lap pace to be in the top 10 because I lost a quick lap to track limits. It’s been a long day and I’ll be in the pack for the start tomorrow, which puts me in the danger zone. I just have to keep out of trouble, try and make a bit of progress and see what we can come away with by the end of race day.”

Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) said: “It wasn’t a very clean session and I felt the balance changed a lot because of the track evolved between practice and qualifying. It’s never been my favourite track, but after the times I set in practice, I expected to be in the top 10. When you lose the flow though – as I did – it’s very hard to find the time. This place doesn’t suit our car particularly, but we’re always a lot stronger in the races and I was on the podium here last year from the reversed grid, so there’s plenty to think about.”

Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “I said before qualifying that if we could be fifth and sixth here – at a front-wheel-drive circuit – I’d be happy with that. Fifth and sixth is exactly what we managed. We always race better here and we have the reversed-grid for Race Three to consider too. We’ll have a long discussion tonight about how to find a bit more speed, but generally I think we’re about where we expected to be with the BMWs.”