Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship
Preview - Brands Hatch - August 27/28 2000
VAUXHALL DRIVERS READY FOR ACTION
"Can't wait!" are the words of Vauxhall's Jason Plato as he and fellow Vauxhall Motorsport team-mates, Yvan Muller and Vincent Radermecker prepare for Rounds 19 and 20 of the Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship which are being hosted, for the second time this season, by Kent's Brands Hatch circuit on August 27/28.
Fresh from a four-week break, the trio are eager to begin the final countdown to this year's Championship battle which currently sees Frenchman, Muller in fourth place on 131 points and Oxford-based, Plato in fifth place on 123 points. However, enough points remain unclaimed to ensure that the trophy is still very much within reach.
All three drivers have high hopes for next weekend's meeting at Brands Hatch and although they will be racing on the shorter 1.22 mile Indy Circuit, they expect the Triple Eight Race Engineering-prepared Vectra to be just as competitive as on their last visit which saw the season opening rounds take place on the 2.6 mile Grand Prix circuit. Yvan Muller finished second and third respectively in the Sprint and Feature Races on that first visit whilst Jason Plato kicked off his season taking first place podium honours in the Feature Race.
Yvan Muller in particular, is looking forward to a circuit that suits both car and driver. The French ace had a tough weekend at Donington Park three weeks ago but fought hard to take two well-earned fourth places.
"With only six races left, it is really important now that we get all "the points we can. I am still in a position to fight for the title and "I intend to fight hard," said Muller. Brands is a good circuit for "us and none of us are carrying ballast, so of course I am hoping to "maximise my points," he continued.
Jason Plato has the same intention. The 32-year-old Briton has already proved himself a force to contend with on the track and has set more, fastest race laps this season than any other driver in the Championship.
"I can't wait to get to Brands Hatch," said a confident Plato. "I like the circuit and am confident that the Vectra will be strong there. The team has worked hard to make improvements as the season has progressed. As for the circuit itself, we should be strong at Paddock Hill Bend, the hairpin (Druid's Bend) and also the Kidney section. However, if anywhere is going to be our Achilles Heal, it is Clearways. That's where my priority will lie for testing because if we can get Clearways right then we'll be looking good."
Team-mate, Vincent Radermecker finished fifth in the Feature Race on his last visit to Brands Hatch and is again hoping to help maximise the team's points. This is the Belgian driver's second season in the BTCC and whilst it has not been an easy ride, Radermecker has shown the pace and skill necessary for podium positions on a number of occasions. Eager to get more points to his name, he will be driving hard for a top placing at Brands Hatch next weekend.
There is no doubt that drivers thoroughly enjoy the thrill and challenge of the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit. Paddock Hill Bend in particular, is widely regarded as one of the most exhilarating corners a driver will ever tackle. Drivers must be feeling bold to make the most of this blind right-hander, braking once at the crest of the brow before the track drops from underneath the cars on exit.
Mistakes are often made here and being a prime corner for overtaking, it is a favourite with the spectators. After Paddock, the field races up towards Druid's Bend where exit speed is crucial for a good lap time. It is flat out then through Graham Hill Bend, where little braking is needed but balance is essential, and on to Surtees, otherwise known as the Kidney Section.
Although not a difficult combination of bends, Surtees should be driven with conviction taking a straight route through and avoiding the temptation of turning in too early. A good exit from Surtees is essential for Clearways, the most important corner on the Indy Circuit. A tricky right-hander, Clearways can make or break a lap time. Slow out here and the rest of the field will power past as they accelerate along Brabham Straight as they complete the loop.
Testing takes place on Saturday August 26 before the weekend's qualifying action on Sunday August 27. Feature Race qualifying begins at 11.25am and is followed by the One-Shot session at 2.45pm. Bank Holiday Monday's race action starts with the 25-lap Sprint Race (Round 19) at 12.45pm with the 50-lap Feature Race (Round 20) scheduled for 3.30pm.
Members of the public will have the opportunity to meet the Vauxhall Motorsport Touring Car Team drivers during the traditional Pit Walkabout/Autograph Session, which takes place on Monday morning at 11.30am.