Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) Rounds 3&4 - Oulton Park, Cheshire - April 20/21, 2002 Vauxhall duo hungry for results. Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller and James Thompson are gunning for maximum points at this...
Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)
Rounds 3&4 - Oulton Park, Cheshire - April 20/21, 2002
Vauxhall duo hungry for results.
Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller and James Thompson are gunning for maximum points at this weekend's Rounds 3 & 4 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship. And when it comes to Cheshire's 2.36-mile Oulton Park circuit, they have more than just an impressive reputation - the opposition barely saw them for dust last year!
Vauxhall currently heads the Manufacturers' standings with 60 points to MG's 26 whilst Vauxhall Motorsport tops the Teams' Championship and Muller jointly leads the Drivers' Championship. However, despite the very much dominant performance of the Astra Coupés at the championship opening rounds at Brands Hatch, Muller and Thompson are aware of the need to bag as many points as possible at the circuits they traditionally perform well on.
Three times winner at Oulton Park last year, Muller is keen to make the most of the coming weekend; "It's a circuit I like and I will be aiming for maximum points this weekend. For sure my 30kgs ballast will be a disadvantage but we know the 2002 car is quick and I am confident I can be in the top three or five for qualifying."
Oulton Park is also a favourite of Muller's British teammate, James Thompson. The 27-year-old was runner-up in three of the four Cheshire rounds in 2001 and following his mixed start to the season which saw him succumb to mechanical difficulties in Round 1, but take a popular win in Round 2, the Yorkshire star is looking to earn as many points as he can. The Triple Eight Race Engineering built and run Vauxhalls are now back up to full strength and Thompson is hoping to get his season well and truly under way.
"It's imperative that I finish the races at Oulton and score some points now. Otherwise, my championship will be over before it's started," explains Thompson. "It's a great circuit though and I'm looking forward to it. I will be feeling a bit 'heavy' with the ballast but there are things we can do with the set-up to maximise the Astra Coupé's performance. As long as I start from relatively near the front of the grid and get past that first corner, I should be in for some good results."
This year the championship features a revised success ballast system and although Vauxhall's Astra Coupés are no strangers to weight penalties, the more level playing field is expected to see the new system play a significant role. Following their success at Brands Hatch, Vauxhall Motorsport's Astra Coupés of Muller and Thompson will carry 30kgs and 42kgs respectively for qualifying and the Sprint Race. The Egg Sport Astra Coupé meanwhile of joint championship leader, Matt Neal, will have a lesser 9kgs whilst Liverpudlian teammate, Paul O'Neill has a permitted weight reduction of -24kgs. Ballast for the main Feature Race will then be revised according to Sprint Race finishing positions.
A favourite of the drivers, the Cheshire circuit always produces nail biting action and with the reduced calendar this year, local spectators will have just this one chance to see some great BTCC action right on their doorsteps. Not that the Astra Coupé drivers will be short of trackside support with Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port factory a mere thirty minutes away.
The timetable for Rounds 3 & 4 commences with BTC Touring car free practice on the morning of Saturday, 20 April whilst qualifying takes place after lunch at 14.05pm. Sunday's events start at 10.50am with Pitlane Walkabout and at 1pm, the touring cars will roar off the grid for the 15-lap Sprint Race. At 4.40pm, it will be time to do it all over again for the main event of the day, the 25-lap Feature Race. And just in case anyone misses the action in person, the BTCC's new host television partner, Granada Sport, will be showing its one-hour programme the following Saturday afternoon on ITV1.