Never mind the race on the track, one of the closest races in this year's British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) is the one facing the Vauxhall Motorsport Team this week following the close quarter antics of Jason Plato and Yvan Muller at Snetterton last weekend.
The first two weeks in August see the BTCC calendar have its one and only "back-to-back" meetings and the action packed night race at Snetterton left the Astra Coupés of both Plato, Muller and Egg Sport driver Phil Bennett, more than a little worse for wear. The team would usually have a minimum of two weeks between each race in which to strip down, repair, rebuild and prepare the cars. However, the Sprint and Feature races at Croft are looming large on the horizon and the team is working flat out to get everything ready for the trip up North.
Ian Harrison, a director of Triple Eight Race Engineering, the company responsible for the build and running of the Astra Coupé's, explains the problems the added workload has given them; "Our biggest problem is the lack of time between the races. We have three cars with a great deal of bodywork damage, not to mention replacing radiators and other things that were damaged at Snetterton and very little time to do it. That is on top of what we would normally do to the cars between each meeting. It is not the best position for anyone to be in with back-to-back races. It has made it hard for all of the teams in the championship, not just us."
The Snetterton Night race saw Jason Plato extend his lead in the driver's points table by just one point from Yvan Muller and the pair showed the touring car crowds that they mean business in the title battle. Both are looking forward to renewing their friendly rivalry at the North Yorkshire venue this coming weekend.
"Croft is a nice circuit," says Muller. "It is a great track to drive as it has a different rhythm to it. Some parts have a lot of grip whereas others don't. It also has a good mix of fast, flowing corners and some tight slow corners, it is very challenging." The Frenchman is also keeping an open mind about his championship chances with ten races left to run this year. "I am now just four points behind Jason in the Championship but I will keep concentrating on doing my best in each race. If that means that I am Champion at the end of the year then that will be good but I cannot say how the season will finish."
Muller is also positive of a better result than he picked up last season at Croft, when both he and his teammate suffered a poor weekend. "For sure it should be a lot easier to get a better result this year at Croft than last time!" He smiles. "Last year Jason made contact with the barrier and I struggled to get to the finish. This year should be a lot better."
Plato is also a fan of the North Yorkshire track and is looking forward to racing there once again. "I like Croft, it's a good circuit with a bit of everything. It makes it quite technical and difficult to set the car up for but there is a real buzz from Croft. You can lose yourself in it."
The Croft meeting reverts back to a 2-day format with qualifying getting underway at 3:15pm on Saturday afternoon. On race day spectators will get the chance to meet the drivers and get autographs during the pit-lane walkabout at 11:00am. The 15-lap Sprint race get underway at 12:30pm while the 30-lap Feature race is scheduled to start at 4:20pm.