BTCC: Brands Hatch: Vauxhall Motorsport rounds one and two race report

Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship 2002 Rounds 1/2 - Brands Hatch GP, Race Report - April 1 aero to hero for Vauxhall's Thompson, whilst Muller leads the championship. It was a dramatic start to Vauxhall's 2002 British Touring...

Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship 2002
Rounds 1/2 - Brands Hatch GP, Race Report - April 1

aero to hero for Vauxhall's Thompson, whilst Muller leads the championship.

It was a dramatic start to Vauxhall's 2002 British Touring Car Championship campaign today with Vauxhall Motorsport's duo, Yvan Muller and James Thompson pulling out all the stops. Muller heads for Rounds 3 & 4 at Oulton Park as joint championship leader whilst York's James Thompson was the undoubted hero of the day after winning the main Feature race from the back of the grid. Vauxhall leads the Manufacturers' Championship proving the Astra Coupe is still the car to beat whilst the Team's Championship is led by the Vauxhall Motorsport Team.

Tyres and engines proved the crucial factor at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit with a puncture robbing Vauxhall Motorsport's, Yvan Muller of a certain Sprint Race win and a second puncture stealing a third place podium position from Liverpool's Egg Sport Astra Coupe driver, Paul O'Neill. York's touring car star, James Thompson suffered a torrid start to his weekend and having lost a first engine in qualifying on the Sunday which put him at back of the grid for both races, he went on to lose a second engine before even completing a lap of the 19-lap Sprint race.

So, as the survivors of the incident filled Sprint Race crossed the finish line, it was Egg Sport Astra Coupe driver, Matt Neal in first, followed by Peugot's Dan Eaves and privateer Barwell Motorsport Astra Coupe driver, Tom Chilton in third. Muller managed to claim fifth after his unscheduled pit stop following a puncture at Druids.

Just three and a half hours later, James Thompson's team of mechanics had pulled off a magnificent race against time and, with a third engine now installed in his Astra Coupe, he lined up once again at the back of the grid for a now shortened Feature Race caused by worries over the kerbs seeing a spate of punctures throughout the teams.

The Vauxhall Motorsport duo went on to prove their dominance and despite two Safety Car periods and several incidents which saw a return to the door-banging days of the Super Touring era, Thompson clawed his way up through the field and, aided by a first rate pitstop which saw him come out ahead of his teammate, Thompson claimed a hard fought win. With Muller in second, the pair took Vauxhall's first of hopefully many, 1-2's of the season.

Yvan Muller, Car 2, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - 5th, 34:17.572, Feature - 2nd, 45:23.228

"I had a very good start in the Sprint Race but didn't want to push at the beginning as I was looking after the tyres. After a while, I decided to pull out a little gap between myself and Matt (Neal) but he came back so I did it again so show him who was boss! We maintained the distance between us then as I think we were both worried about the tyres. Unfortunately, I felt a vibration and had to decide whether to come in and lose time changing tyres or stay out. It seems I made the wrong decision and half a lap later, I had the puncture at Druids. We thought we were being conservative but obviously not conservative enough and as a result, I changed my Feature race strategy. (Re: Feature) James and I had a good fight in the Feature race but decided there was no point risking our positions. I was very happy though with the race overall and I had no problems really in the Feature with the Astra Coupe."

James Thompson, Car 3, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - DNF, Feature - Winner, 45:20.934

"I'm absolutely gutted about my Sprint race, effectively that's two engines gone in three laps. But, I intend to start the Feature race and the guys are working like mad to put another engine in.(Re: Feature) I've never won a race from the back before and I wasn't expecting the win so I'm really chuffed with a Feature Race win! It was a great result, the guys did a fantastic job changing the engine and set-up between races. It was good that everyone was so close, it's obvious we are not going to get everything our own way this year! It seems that everything was against me this weekend after being so comfortable in testing so it's good to come away from the weekend with 15 points."

Other Vauxhall News
The Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe drivers had a thrilling start to their championship with Matt Neal taking a well earned win in the Sprint race whilst Paul O'Neill narrowly missed out on a stunning podium position after picking up a puncture when lying in third on the final lap of the race. Neal paid the penalty for his win though, carrying maximum ballast for the Feature Race and after dicing for position from start to finish, he crossed the line in fourth overall, giving him joint championship lead with Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller. O'Neill's luck ran out with a suspected nudge from behind, putting paid to his Feature race hopes.

Matt Neal, Car 0, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - Winner, 33:35.811, Feature - 4th, 45:24.984

Paul O'Neill, Car 29, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - DNF, Feature - DNF

Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship
Rounds 1/2 - Brands Hatch GP, April 1 <pre> Sprint Race - 19 Laps 1 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 33:35.811 2 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 33:39.948 3 Tom Chilton Vauxhall Astra Coupe 33:41.216 4 Anthony Reid MG ZS 33:47.533 5 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 34:17.572 6 Norman Simon BMW 320i 34:57.292(P) Fastest Lap: Yvan Muller (F) 1:33.267 lap 12

Feature Race - 25 Laps 1 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 45:20.934 2 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 45:23.228 3 Anthony Reid MG ZS 45:24.237 4 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 45:24.984 5 Andy Priaulx Honda Civic Type R 45:31.256 6 Phil Bennett Proton Impian 45:32.662 Fastest Lap: Yvan Muller (F) 1:33.262 lap 7 Weather: Dry/Cloudy

Drivers' Championship (After 2 Rds) 1= Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23 points 1= Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23 3 Anthony Reid MG ZS 18 4 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 16 5 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 13 6 Tom Chilton Vauxhall Astra Coupe 10

Manufacturers' Championship (After 2 Rds) 1 Vauxhall 60 points 2 MG 26 3 Proton 13 4 Honda 12

Teams' Championship (After 2 Rds) 1 Vauxhall Motorsport 27 points 2 MG Sport & Racing 13 3 Egg Sport 8 4 Honda Racing 6 5= Team Petronas 5 5= Team Halfords 5 7 Barwell Motorsport 2 8 Team Atomic Kitten 0

-vm-

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