www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)
Brands Hatch (Indy Circuit) - October 6/7 2001
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED FOR VAUXHALL!...BUT WHICH ONE WINS?
Whatever happens this weekend at the final rounds of the 2001 www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch, there is one fact that cannot be disputed - this year's Champion will be a Vauxhall Motorsport driver.
Having decimated the field of Peugeot's, Alfa Romeo's, MG's and a Lexus, all four Vauxhall Astra Coupé drivers have had their share of victories and podium positions - in fact, a Vauxhall driver has won every single race so far this year. Now, the question on everyone's lips is which of the two Vauxhall Motorsport drivers, Yvan Muller or current championship leader, Jason Plato, will finally be crowned Champion on Sunday?
With just six points separating the battling duo, no one can claim that this year's finale won't be thrilling. Vauxhall Motorsport Manager, Mike Nicholson, explains, it is already mission accomplished for the Luton marque: "This is great for the interest in the championship and for us at Vauxhall - whichever driver wins, we know that he will be driving an Astra Coupé, so we're guaranteed our third BTCC championship this year to add to the Manufacturers' and the Teams' titles."
That doesn't alter the fact, however, that whilst each driver has given his utmost dedication to the team this year, one will go home on Sunday as Champion and the other, disappointed. The on-track rivalry this year between the two Vauxhall Motorsport drivers has been well documented and the tension, understandably, is building. It is a telling sign that Frenchman, Muller has, unusually, flown over from his home in France to carry out his own pre- race weekend shakedown duties. He is leaving nothing to chance.
Despite taking the fight down to the wire, Muller has obviously relished the title fight this year: "I think every driver would like a championship settled before the final rounds, but for me and Jason still to be fighting is good for the fans and the championship. I like Brands Hatch and the circuit does not disagree with my style of driving, like for example Donington did. I have some ground to make up in the points standings, but I expect to make a strong show at the weekend."
Current championship leader, Jason Plato knows this is make or break time and will be hoping to keep a cool head under the circumstances: "It's a really exciting end to the championship. I'm ahead on points and I don't have the added pressure of needing two race wins to become the 2001 BTCC Champion. I think the atmosphere will be electric at Brands, I wouldn't miss it for the world."
This year's final weekend of BTCC touring car action starts at 3:15pm on Saturday afternoon (October 6) with the 30-minute qualifying session. The traditional pitlane walkabout and autograph session takes place on Sunday, race day, between 12pm and 12:45pm. Meanwhile, championship sponsors, theAA.com will be auctioning off BTCC team and driver memorabilia in aid of Cystic Fibrosis at the Paddock Hill Grandstand between 12:15pm and 1:15pm. Touring car race action gets under way with the 25-lap Sprint race at 1:30pm whilst the final race of the year, the 50-lap Feature race is scheduled for 4:10pm.