www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) Oulton Park - August 25/26 2001 THE FINAL COUNTDOWN This weekend's BTCC races at Oulton Park mark a significant point in what has been an enthralling season of skill, speed, courage,...
www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)
Oulton Park - August 25/26 2001
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
This weekend's BTCC races at Oulton Park mark a significant point in what has been an enthralling season of skill, speed, courage, luck and mental steeliness as the Vauxhall Astra Coupé drivers fight for the 2001 Championship. Rounds 19 & 20 of the www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship see the touring car circus start its final countdown as it visits the 2.36-mile Cheshire circuit for the second time this year. There are only four race weekends left and each venue; Oulton Park, Silverstone, Donington Park and Brands Hatch; has already hosted a round of the BTCC meaning each of the teams has experience of, and data for, the circuits. Everyone is about to raise their game that little bit more and the on-track battles are going to be monumental.
Not surprisingly, with current championship leader Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller only three points ahead of his teammate Jason Plato, things are going to be hot at the top. Egg Sport Astra Coupé driver, James Thompson has also proved himself a major contender and lies, ready to pounce, 21 points behind.
Although seemingly at the top of his game and with the knowledge that his last visit to Oulton Park produced double pole positions and two wins, Muller isn't about to take anything for granted; "For sure it was a successful weekend but much has changed since our last visit there. Not only do I now carry maximum success ballast but the compulsory 30kgs imposed on all Astra Coupés wasn't a factor when we were at Oulton Park the first time, and that obviously means the balance and set-ups will be different. Also, since May, we have learnt even more about the car and although I will be keeping the base set-up used at Oulton Park, I will be making two or three alterations."
Plato meanwhile, although down on points, seems to have taken on a new persona over the past few weeks. A more relaxed but productive way of working with his engineer, John Morton, combined with a quietly confident outlook could well prove his key to success - only time will tell.
That is not to say all has been plain sailing for the Oxford-based driver though. A 30 second penalty applied to his Snetterton Feature Race result pushed him down the final standings giving the advantage to his French teammate as they went to battle at the North Yorkshire circuit of Croft. A win and a second place apiece saw the duo level pegging but it was Muller's additional points for fastest lap in each race and leading in the Feature which put him ahead by a nose. Plato is keeping his cool: "All I have to do is put in some good testing and put it on pole. It's good to be up front, not just from the racing point of view, but psychologically too. So that's the plan, I'm looking forward to it."
The fourth Astra Coupé driver, Phil Bennett, will be taking time out from his Egg Sport car following a one-race ban issued by TOCA officials at the last round at Croft. His replacement for the weekend will be the current Formula 3 Alan Docking Racing team driver, Andy Priaulx.
Oulton Park sees the 30-minute qualifying session getting under way at 3:15pm on Saturday (August 25) afternoon. Race day, Sunday, starts with pitlane walkabout at 11am when spectators will get the chance to meet the drivers and get autographs. The 15-lap Sprint race starts at 12:55pm whilst the 30-lap Feature race is scheduled for 16:05pm.