BTCC: Muller takes round one at Mondello Park

Yvan Muller dominated the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Mondello Park in Ireland. The VX Racing driver started from pole position and pulled out a comfortable lead to take a lights-to-flag victory, moving up to second ...

Yvan Muller dominated the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Mondello Park in Ireland. The VX Racing driver started from pole position and pulled out a comfortable lead to take a lights-to-flag victory, moving up to second place in the championship and to within twenty points of leader Matt Neal of Team Dynamics.

Muller made an absolutely perfect start from pole position and led comfortably into the first corner ahead of his team-mate Colin Turkington who had also made a good start. Luke Hines, starting in third place for SEAT Sport UK, made a very slow getaway after he crept slowly forwards during the red light and stopped then just as the lights went out, allowing team-mate James Plato straight past into third as the cars crossed the line.

James Pickford also made a slow start from sixth place for SEAT Sport UK allowing Arena Motorsports driver Tom Chilton past before the first corner and Gavin Smith, of VX Racing, tried to follow him through the gap on the inside. Pickford and Smith exchanged paintwork at the exit of the corner but as Pickford moved slightly to the right in order to get a good line for the following left-hander he caught the right-front of Smith’s car and was sent backwards at high speed across the grass. He was able to rejoin but at the back of the field and twelve seconds behind the penultimate car.

Plato was glued to Turkington’s rear bumper all the way around the second half of the opening lap and this allowed Hines and Neal to remain right behind them and Neal got a stronger line out of Parabolica to pull alongside down the back straight and dived inside going into the Tarzan hairpin. Turkington moved to the outside on the entrance to Lola, the final hairpin, but Plato pointed his car at the apex and, with two wheels on the grass, dived inside Turkington and stole second place.

Rob Collard, driving the MG ZS for West Surrey Racing, also completed a successful start to the race, having started in ninth place and quickly moved up to seventh place, by diving inside Chilton at the first corner of the second lap to move up to sixth and then outbraking Hines into Tarzan to move up to fifth place.

Muller put in a very strong pace and was initially able to pull out up to one second per lap. Plato was unable to shake off Turkington and the pair ran together for the first half of the race with Neal and Collard close behind. Team Dynamics driver Dan Eaves hounded Chilton for seventh place for the first three laps and Eaves, after a couple of half-hearted efforts, got by on the inside at the exit of the first corner to move up to sixth.

Eaves, Hines, Chilton, Smith and James Kaye were all running nose-to-tail in a battle for sixth place. Hines closed right up on Eaves as they crossed the line to start lap six but, as the pair battled, Smith took advantage of the confusion to move up to seventh and Kaye up to ninth as Hines and Chilton dropped back to eighth and tenth.

Plato, Turkington and Neal followed each other closely and approaching the last corner on lap six Neal moved to the inside to make a pass. Turkington responded by moving to the middle of the track but Neal aimed firmly for the inside and, with the whole car on the kerb at the apex, muscled past Turkington and pulled out a two second cushion. Neal was running a fraction slower than Muller so was unable to make any impact on the gap to the leader.

Muller held on to his lead for the latter half of the race although he slowed over the final lap to win by just under three seconds from Plato who finished three tenths of a second ahead of Neal. Turkington withstood immense pressure from Collard to finish fourth. Hines was forced to pit after his right-hand door worked open and he dropped back to twelfth place.

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About this article
Series BTCC
Drivers Yvan Muller , Tom Chilton , Dan Eaves , Colin Turkington , Matt Neal , James Kaye , Luke Hines , James Pickford , James Plato , Rob Collard