Muller starts 2002 BTCC sampaign with double pole
It was a bitter sweet start to Vauxhall's 2002 British Touring Car Championship campaign today with Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller kicking off his season with a stunning double pole whilst his teammate, James Thompson sat out the majority of the two, 20 minute qualifying sessions having not completed a single timed lap due to a blown engine. Thompson will consequently have his work cut out for him tomorrow, April 1, starting both the 14-lap Sprint and 25-lap Features races from the back of the grid.
This year's new qualifying format of two, consecutive twenty minute sessions saw a thrilling start to the BTCC season with drivers continuously trading times throughout the sessions but it was Muller who was on top form, posting a Sprint race time of 1m33.105. His nearest rival, Egg Sport Astra Coupe driver, Matt Neal was just three tenths behind whilst MG's Anthony Reid completed the top three. The Vauxhall duo went on to repeat the performance for the Feature Race grid with the only differences being the Frenchman's blistering pole time of 1m32.992 and Peugeot's Dan Eaves lining up in third place behind Neal.
With Matt Neal lining up alongside Muller on the front row of the grid for both races, and his teammate, Paul O'Neill starting his Feature Race from fourth, there was no doubt that the Astra Coupe was the car to beat this afternoon.
Yvan Muller, Car 2, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe Sprint - Pole, 1m33.105s, Feature - Pole, 1m32.992s
"That was the best way to start the season. Two poles and two points - great. I had a near perfect first run in the Astra Coupe and a not so good second run but I couldn't ask for anything better than to start the first race on pole."
James Thompson, Car 3, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe Sprint - Unclassified, Feature - DNS
"Well, I'm disappointed to say the least, it's not a great way to start the season. I didn't even get a timed lap in. I'll just have to do the best I can tomorrow but it's a long way to climb up through the field from the back of the grid. The Astra's good enough to do it but just how far I get, we'll have to see. "
OTHER VAUXHALL NEWS
EggSport's Vauxhall Astra Coupe drivers were over the moon with their performances this afternoon with Matt Neal lining up on the front row for both Sprint and Feature Races despite a trip to the gravel trap at Paddock Hill Bend towards the end of the second session. Paul O'Neill, the Liverpudlian newcomer to the Touring Class showed his metal today and after a trouble free qualifying, was clearly delighted to be lining up fourth for the Feature Race.
<pre> Matt Neal, Car 0, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe Sprint - 2nd, 1m33.405, Feature - 2nd, 1m33.465
Paul O'Neill, Car 29, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe Sprint - 9th, 1m34.409, Feature - 4th, 1m33.599
Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship Rounds 1/2 - Brands Hatch GP, March 31
Qualifying - Sprint Race 1 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 1m33.105s 2 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 1:33.405 3 Anthony Reid MG ZS 1:33.756 4 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 1:33.800 5 Tom Chilton Vauxhall Astra Coupe 1:34.066 6 Tim Harvey Peugeot 406 Coupe 1:34.091
Qualifying - Feature Race 1 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 1:32.992s 2 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 1:33.465 3 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 1:33.583 4 Paul O'Neill Vauxhall Astra Coupe 1:33.599 5 Warren Hughes MG ZS 1:33.955 6 Tim Harvey Peugeot 406 Coupe 1:34.039 Weather: Dry/Cloudy