BTCC: James Thompson wins Sprint race at Croft Circuit

The Toca package headed north to Croft Circuit near Darlington, England this weekend for rounds 11 and 12 of the British Touring Car Championship. Matt Neal lead the series by one point from James Thompson going into the second half of the ...

The Toca package headed north to Croft Circuit near Darlington, England this weekend for rounds 11 and 12 of the British Touring Car Championship. Matt Neal lead the series by one point from James Thompson going into the second half of the season.

James Thompson and Yvan Muller secured the front row for Vauxhall in qualifying. Thompson had suffered gearbox problems all during free practice but was relieved to be able to complete some competitive laps during qualifying. Muller meanwhile suffered problems right from the start as he hit a tyre barrier close to the track early in the session causing damage to both the bodywork and suspension of his car. The surprises of the session were Andy Priaulx and Alan Morrison in third and fourth position respectively in their Honda Civics, with Priaulx leading for much of the session after setting a spectacular time on his first competitive lap. Matt Neal was sixth amongst the MGs of Anthony Reid (5th), Colin Turkington (7th) and Warren Hughes (8th), whereas team-mate Paul O'Neill had a disappointing session and ended up in 14th place.

Thompson's pole position for the sprint race and subsequent pole position for the feature race scored him two points which put him into the lead of the championship going into the sprint race. However Thompson's and Muller's success at the previous round at Mondello Park meant that the Vauxhall drivers were running with the maximum success ballast.

The leading Vauxhalls held their position at the start of the race as third-placed Andy Priaulx got away very badly and dropped ten places. Thompson and Muller remained about three-quarters of a second apart as they pulled away from the rest of the field and were the only drivers to ap in the 1m 25s range. Reid passed Morrison on lap three but wasn't able to shake off the Honda. Meanwhile MG team-mate Hughes went the other way as he was taken my Matt Neal and dropped to sixth place.

The positions were maintained until lap 7 when Paul O'Neill, who was running in 12th place, hit a kerb causing an oil fire in his car and the safety car to be deployed. The race was restarted after five laps and Thompson and Muller imediately set about the task of restoring their lead. Meanwhile other drivers took the opportunity to make up places as Matt Neal and Warren Hughes took advantage of a mistake by Alan Morrison to move up to fourth and fifth places. However Neal too fell victim to the vicious kerbs and backed right off and eventually retired after hearing a loud noise followed by understeer.

The MGs of Reid and Hughes were running in third and fourth when Reid suffered a puncture putting him off the circuit. Hughes almost followed him off and lightly brushed the tyres before returning to the circuit and losing barely a second. Second-placed Muller also suffered a puncture sending him out of the race, which promoted Hughes to second briefly before he succumbed to handling problems. This left James Thompson to stroll to the flag to take an easy win, five seconds ahead of David Leslie (who had started in 11th place) in second and Colin Turkington in third.

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Series BTCC
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Yvan Muller , Alan Morrison , Paul O'Neill , David Leslie , James Thompson , Warren Hughes , Colin Turkington , Matt Neal