By S.P. Sheridan - Motorsport.com The 19th and the 20th rounds of the British Touring Car Championships, kicked of with a twist in the tale, as over 15,000 spectators watched the rookie, Andy Priaulx, cover Phil Bennett's drive. Bennett, the ...
By S.P. Sheridan - Motorsport.com
The 19th and the 20th rounds of the British Touring Car Championships, kicked of with a twist in the tale, as over 15,000 spectators watched the rookie, Andy Priaulx, cover Phil Bennett's drive. Bennett, the second driver in the Team Egg Sport camp, was banned from the Oulton Park rounds for an over zealous manoeuvre at the last round of Croft, and was surprisingly replaced with a Formula 3 driver, Andy Prilaux ( Alan Docking Racing F3 team.) Andy stunned the watchers into silence as he qualified first, for both the Sprint and the Feature races, admittedly he had 60 kilo's less weight than the more successful front runners, but he only had this weekend to prove himself, and did he make his mark!
Sprint: The sprint kicked of with Prilaux losing traction with wheel spin, he lost the first corner to a more experienced Muller, followed by Soper-Plato-Eaves and Thompson. Thompson, breaking in a new engine, managed to pass Eaves early on in the race. Soper defended nicely, but his race didn't produce that sought after win, and Thompson sent him to the back of the queue to join his team mate. Soper continued to have more bad luck when he had to make an unscheduled pit stop. Smoke pouring from the back of his car meant an early retirement. Well, Bennett did say that Steve Soper was too old to race. Now where is Phil? Jason Plato was very diplomatic, this is what he had to say about Andy Prilaux.......
M.com: "You were third, are you disappointed because of Andy?"
JP "Yeah, a little bit disappointed, Andy has a massive advantage in that he has got no weight in his car, and he has only been drafted in because Phil isn't here. Had Andy had the same weight as me he wouldn't be where he is, there is still a long way to go, it just makes me more determined to win the next one."
M.com: "What do you think of drivers being drafted in, in the middle of a championship?"
JP "It's a difficult situation with the team, we've got the works Vauxhall and the Team Egg sport drivers, both run by the same company. Egg want their cars to do well, so it is an issue, and it's not for me to say Andy shouldn't be here, and had Phil been here he wouldn't have beaten me in that race. There are two drivers fighting for the series and I lost points because someone's been drafted in." 'Jason, there are three drivers still in contention for the crown, not two.'
M.com: "Good for James that you didn't get the second?"
JP "Possibly it's only a couple of points. I lost two points because of that."
M.com: "Are you ready for the Feature race?"
JP "Yeah, I'm ready for that. I'm second on the grid. My car was good in the race, I had a good strong car, I think brakes are gonna be a bit of an issue in the long race. As you said before Andy is not an issue (did I) im not even gonna bother racing him, I just want to beat Yvan and win the points."
Andy had a different angle on the race, as he is not in contention for the crown.....
M.com: "Andy fantastic you got a second"
AP "Very pleased, like everything you always want to win, but I was trying to be realistic about the whole weekend and I would have been very happy with a few podiums and I wanted to show my speed in qualifying and I showed that. Racing is a different kettle of fish. This is my first Touring car race so I don't know what to expect."
M.com: " You had a bit of wheel spin at the start and lost the first corner to Yvan"
AP " Yeah Yvan is a very good starter and I lost a bit of time to him there, if I had got ahead then it would have been different but I didn't and I just sat behind him and watched and learned how he handled the car"
M.com: "Did you sit behind because you wanted to learn from Yvan?"
AP "No I felt comfortable with the traffic I was a bit worried about that I hadn't driven with the national saloons before and I just got into the groove and felt fine."
M.com: "What do you think about the controversial way you were brought into the championships?"
AP "I don't know really, a race is a race, you can't plan something like this so you just have to try your best."
M.com: "Well done!"
The final positions for the race were -1st, Muller. 2nd, Priaulx. 3rd, Plato. 4th Thompson. The Feature race had even more surprises in store...
Prilaux once again on pole, and spectators watched with bated breath, as he took the first corner, Plato attacked at every opportunity until he finally took the lead, a lead he would manage to keep until the finish. His team mate Muller, not so lucky, as he spun off on the second lap, almost taking Thompson with him, but Thompson managed to avoid Muller and held on for a second. The safety car was called out. Mullers car was removed from track side and the race was on. The most exciting moment of the race came when the Peugeot of Dan Eaves made up for the loss of his team mate to more engine failure, as he took the Peugeots second Podium of the year.
Dan Eaves was almost bursting with achievement as he faced the press conference-
M.com: " It's been a long time coming but you finally got there on the podium"
DE "It's brilliant, it could have been better if Steve had won, but im happy to bring the car home in third place for the team and the Peugeots. Steve had a third place earlier on in the year and im happy now to take third here. Hopefully at Silverstone we will be more competitive."
M.com: " You both had very good pit stops"
DE "Steve actually made the best pit stop and we made some time on the Vauxhalls, then a lot of oil went down on the circuit when Andy Priaulx went out, so everyone was a bit tentative, especially me after my incident at Snetterton when I smashed my car to pieces. I lost a bit of time then I was told Steve was out, and then tried to control it and bring the car home in one piece."
M.com: "Did you have any problems with the brakes?"
DE "No, our car never really had a problem with the brakes, the Vauxhalls are a little bit heavier than us and that's why they suffer with the brakes, but no, no problems for us."
M.com: "It would have been nice to see Steve up there for his 100th race?"
DE "Yeah, it would have been lovely for him to win it."
M.com: " It's great to see a different colour up there on the podium"
DE "Great for me, thanks."
Peugeot and Steve will be celebrating the success of Dan Eaves and reflecting on what could have been for Steve Soper. With a few more tweaks of the Peugeot the team will, if not this year, next, be a force to challenge the Vauxhalls.
M.com: "James you had a bit of good luck"
JT "The race was all right, we were behind the Peugeot at the start of the race, I came out of the pit's and lost a couple of seconds, I think Jason had a few problems with the pits as well, so we worked together to catch the Peugeot. Ultimately the Peugeots retired so we came first and second, but it was a very good result because Yvan didn't finish."
M.com: "What does this mean for the championship?"
JT "I Just keep going, I have to take every weekend as it comes, six races still to go, that's still quite a lot of points."
M.com: "Who will be your team mate at the next race?"
JT "I presume it will be Phil."
M.com: "Andy made his mark?"
JT "Yeah, he did really well."
M.com: "Yvan just missed you when he spun off?"
JT "I slowed down massively on the track because I knew that if I carried on he would have hit me, so I just slowed down and when he passed I carried on."
M.com: "So did you resign to second because you couldn't catch Jason?"
JT "No I was pushing Jason, I knew that brakes were a real problem here, I knew if I kept pushing he might have made a mistake, I was keeping the gap constant till the end of the race."
JT "No problem."
The championship is still wide open and with surprises like Andy Prilaux thrown in for good measure, who knows which one of the three top runners will take the glory. Silvertsone is looming in the distance. One to watch!