Vauxhall's Thompson crowned 2002 BTCC champion! After nine years of trying and to the delight of 26,500 people, Vauxhall Motorsport's James Thompson was finally crowned the 2002 British Touring Car Champion this afternoon at Leicestershire's ...
Vauxhall's Thompson crowned 2002 BTCC champion!
After nine years of trying and to the delight of 26,500 people, Vauxhall Motorsport's James Thompson was finally crowned the 2002 British Touring Car Champion this afternoon at Leicestershire's Donington Park circuit. Having already secured both the Manufacturers' and Teams' titles at the penultimate round of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship, Thompson's title victory completes Vauxhall's hat trick of successes.
Main championship rival and equal points leader at the start of the day, Yvan Muller however, took the fight right down to the wire until steering failure from repeated contact in Round 20, left the Frenchman out of the race and out of the championship running. He finishes the season for the second consecutive year in overall second place with Egg Sport Astra Coupe driver, Matt Neal making it an all Vauxhall top three. Paul O'Neill in the second of the Egg Sport Astras finishes his debut BTCC year in a respectable overall eighth place.
However, it was Thompson's day and the popular Yorkshireman clinched the coveted title after first winning the 20-lap Sprint race ahead of Honda's Andy Priaulx and fellow Astra driver, Neal. He then went on to drive a solid Feature race to take a third place podium behind Honda's Alan Morrison and MG's Warren Hughes.
The weekend turned into quite a roller coaster ride for Thompson who arrived at Donington four points in the lead only to lose five in free practice, putting him one point in arrears. He then managed to level the playing field by qualifying in pole for the Sprint race setting up the sensational showdown with Muller. And although his Sprint race win gave him a ten point lead, it wasn't until Muller bowed out of the final race that the ecstatic Thompson could savour the taste of title success.
Vauxhall Motorsport Quotes:
Yvan Muller, Car 2, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - 5th, Feature - DNF
"It is always difficult to fight for a title against your teammates and we fought hard all season. But once I was out of the Feature race, that was it, end of season, end of story. I'm disappointed not to have had the opportunity to fight to the last lap but that is racing, We have won the Manufacturers' and Teams' titles so I have at least done my job and look forward to the future now."
James Thompson, Car 3, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - Winner, Fastest lap: 1m41.211s, Feature - 3rd
"It's just fantastic and I'm quite overwhelmed! Many thanks to Vauxhall and the Triple Eight team, there's no doubt that we've had the best car out there with the Astra Coupe. It's been pretty tense and after winning the Sprint race, which was a key moment, my tactics then were to shadow Yvan to maintain my points lead. I have to say, when I heard he was out, it was a pretty emotional moment! After nearly 200 BTCC races, this title means so much to me."
OTHER VAUXHALL NEWS
Matt Neal, Car 0, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 3rd, Feature - DNF
"Once I was out of the title race, my aim this weekend was to win a race or get on the podium so I'm really delighted with my third in the Sprint, a great way to finish the year with the Egg Sport team."
Paul O'Neill, Car 29, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - DNF, Feature - 5th
"I was disappointed not to finish the first race but the boys did a great job getting my car ready for the Feature enabling me to get out there. It was hard work but I just wanted to get out and do the best I could. A great end of season for me and the Egg Sport team."
Drivers' Championship (After 20 Rds)
1 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 183 - 2002 CHAMPION
2 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 163
3 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 145
4 Anthony Reid MG ZS 136
5 Andy Priaulx Honda Civic Type R 116
6 Warren Hughes MG ZS 110
7 David Leslie Proton Impian 79
8 Paul O'Neill Vauxhall Astra Coupe 77
9 Alan Morrison Honda Civic Type R 68
10 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 43
Manufacturers' Championship (After 20 Rds)
1 Vauxhall 471 points - 2002 CHAMPIONS
2 MG 320
3 Honda 212
4 Proton 145
Teams' Championship (After 20 Rds)
1 Vauxhall Motorsport 161 points - 2002 CHAMPIONS
2 MG Sport & Racing 107
3 Egg Sport 87
4 Honda Racing 78
5 Team Halfords 47
6 Team Atomic Kitten 34
7 Team Petronas 14
8 Barwell Motorsport 12