BTCC: Season review from Vauxhall

Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship Season Review - September 2000 VAUXHALL'S FIGHT FOR VICTORIES They may not have won the 2000 Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship, but no-one can say that Vauxhall Motorsport's...

Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship Season Review - September 2000

VAUXHALL'S FIGHT FOR VICTORIES

They may not have won the 2000 Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship, but no-one can say that Vauxhall Motorsport's British Touring Car Championship team of Yvan Muller, Jason Plato and Vincent Radermecker did not give the eventual champions a good run for their money. Visiting the winner's podium on no less than nineteen occasions, Vauxhall's trio of drivers proved themselves worthy adversaries, keeping the competition forever looking over their shoulders and more often than not, looking at their rear lights.

Britain's premiere motor racing series has always boasted some of the most closely fought tin top racing in the world and this year was no exception. The 24-round Championship saw some thrilling wheel-to-wheel action, with each team experiencing the roller coaster ride of a hugely competitive season.

After a winter of fining tuning in the Triple Eight Race Engineering workshop, Vauxhall started their 2000 BTCC campaign on a high with both French ace, Yvan Muller and Britain's own touring car star, Jason Plato, making it on to the rostrum in the season's opening rounds at Brands Hatch. The 2-litre front-wheel drive Vauxhall Vectra was going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Muller's second place podium in the inaugural Sprint Race proved a huge boost to the team and was followed shortly after by team-mate, Plato storming to victory in the Feature Race. Muller finished not far behind in third. Belgium's Vincent Radermecker started his 2000 season with a win in the Michelin Pit Stop Challenge and finished fifth in the Feature Race. Vauxhall came way from that first weekend with 54 manufacturers' points, Jason Plato leading the Drivers' Championship and Yvan Muller hot on his heels in second.

For the first time, Rounds 3 and 4 at Donington saw the Vectras of Plato and Muller running with maximum success ballast - 40kg each. A new introduction to spice up the action, success ballast was going to prove itself a major equalising factor over the course of the season.

If ever there was a high point of the season for the Vauxhall Motorsport team, Thruxton was it. A highly successful qualifying session resulted in a Vauxhall 1-2-3 for the Feature Race and Muller on pole for the Sprint. Expectations were high. Muller set the ball rolling taking a lights-to-flag victory in the Sprint Race with Plato finishing in third and Radermecker, fourth. Plato had also set a new Thruxton lap record in the process. The main Feature Race was just as thrilling with the extended 35-lap race eventually won by Muller with Plato making it a Vauxhall 1-2 having set yet another fastest lap time. Radermecker retired with a puncture whilst running in third but it was a weekend dominated by Vauxhall.

Rounds 7 and 8 at Knockhill's infamous circuit resulted in a good points score but it was not until Cheshire's Oulton Park that Vincent Radermecker finally took his first podium finish. Plato took second place honours in the Feature Race.

By mid season, the Championship battle had begun to heat up and June's races at Silverstone provided some spectacular action. In a weekend of racing incidents, Plato suffered suspension damage after a coming together with Ford's Anthony Reid in the Sprint Race while Radermecker had the wrath of the Honda drivers to contend with. However, it was Muller who once again stole the limelight, taking a decisive Feature Race victory and posting fastest laps in both races. Muller was now third in the Drivers' Championship and only 12 points behind the Championship leader.

Rounds 13 and 14 at North Yorkshire's challenging Croft circuit were a bitter blow to the team's Championship aspirations with Plato and Radermecker both suffering high-speed crashes. But, with ten rounds to go and Yvan Muller still in contention for the title, Vauxhall's touring car team was breathing down the necks of its rivals.

All three drivers had a point to prove at Norfolk's Snetterton circuit for the first of the season's night races and it was Jason Plato who lit up the track with a spectacular performance. The Oxford-based Briton converted his Sprint Race pole position into a lights-to-flag victory before going out in the rain-hit Feature and storming to second place. Muller had a less than perfect weekend after his Vectra sustained irreparable damage in the Sprint Race although he finished a well deserved fourth in the Feature Race driving Radermecker's Vectra.

Two fourth place finishes at Donington ensured Muller retained a hold on the Drivers' Championship but it was Plato who took the most points at the next rounds on the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit finishing third in the rain drenched Feature Race. The penultimate rounds at Oulton Park were to prove crucial to Muller's and Plato's Championship hopes. Muller knew what was needed and finished the weekend with two third places - enough to keep him in contention for a Championship podium position.

However, with an extra 40kg on board for the season finale at Silverstone, Muller's weighty challenge on the Championship was over and he finished his season fourth in the drivers' standings. Celebrating his 100th BTCC race start, Plato finished his Championship challenge on a high crossing the Feature Race finish line in second place and claiming fifth overall in the Championship. Plato also took `fastest driver' honours having posted the most number of fastest race laps throughout the season. Radermecker finished his season with a determined performance, taking two fourth places.

A thrilling end to a thrilling season which saw Vauxhall Motorsport's BTCC team regularly at the front of the field and winning races.

<pre> AUTO TRADER BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP 2000

ROUNDS 1/2 - BRANDS HATCH, APRIL 9 Sprint Race (14 laps) Feature Race (33 laps) 1 *Menu (CH) Ford 21:03.676 Plato Vauxhall 58:45.206 2 Muller (F) Vauxhall 21:04.494 Reid Ford 58:46.385 3 Rydell (S) Ford 21:10.576 Muller (F) Vauxhall 58:46.698 4 Plato Vauxhall 21:10.824 Rydell (S) Ford 58:57.872 5 Reid Ford 21:12.059 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 59:01.277 6 Thompson Honda 21:12.979 Tarquini (I) Honda 59:24.870 7 Kristensen (DK) Honda 21.13.664 *Menu (CH) Ford 59:27.504 8 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 21:17.375 Blair Nissan 59:59.092 9 Tarquini (I) Honda 21:19.206 Kaye Honda 59:05.404 10 Neal Nissan 21:19.764 Lemmer Honda 59:10.074 Fastest Lap: Plato 1:29.075/170.59kph FL: Reid 1:28.935/170.86kph *Pole

ROUNDS 3/4 - DONINGTON PARK, APRIL 24 Sprint Race (18 laps) Feature Race (36 laps) 1 Menu (CH) Ford 21:38.350 Menu (CH) Ford 43:40.921 2 *Rydell (S) Ford 21:39.088 Tarquini (I) Honda 43:44.344 3 Reid Ford 21:39.759 *Rydell (CH) Ford 43:46.309 4 Tarquini (I) Honda 21:41.168 Reid Ford 43:47.804 5 Kristensen (DK) Honda 21:42.111 Muller (F) Vauxhall 43:58.386 6 Plato Vauxhall 21.48.510 Kristensen (DK) Honda 43:58.536 7 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 21:49.596 Plato Vauxhall 43:58.981 8 Neal Nissan 21:49.900 Neal Nissan 44:15.170 9 Blair Nissan 22:25.371 Kox (NL) Honda 44:24.425 10 Morrison Peugeot 22:38.116 Blair Nissan 44:03.685 Fastest Lap: Menu 1:10.983/159.75kph FL: Rydell 1:10.997/159.72kph

ROUNDS 5/6 - THRUXTON, MAY 1 Sprint Race (16 laps) Feature Race (35 laps) 1 *Muller (F) Vauxhall 20:01.250 Muller (F) Vauxhall 46:10.375 2 Reid Ford 20:03.175 *Plato Vauxhall 46:10.814 3 Plato Vauxhall 20:05.326 Menu (CH) Ford 46:12.001 4 Rydell (S) Ford 20:06.918 Reid Ford 46:23.397 5 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 20:07.139 Tarquini (I) Honda 47:07.428 6 Leslie Honda 20:12.785 Blair Nissan 47:25.067 7 Neal Nissan 20:21.169 Morrison Peugeot 47:28.748 8 Menu (CH) Ford 20:26.680 - 9 Kristensen (DK) Honda 20:34.269 - 10 Blair Nissan 21:09.679 - Fastest Lap: Plato 1:13.953/184.57kph FL: Plato 1:13.272/186.29kph

ROUNDS 7/8 - KNOCKHILL, MAY 14 Sprint Race (22 laps) Feature Race (40 laps) 1 Rydell (S) Ford 20:44.910 *Tarquini (I) Honda 36:08.803 2 *Menu (CH) Ford 20:45.853 Thompson Honda 36:12.076 3 Reid Ford 20:49.600 Rydell (S) Ford 36:25.517 4 Neal Nissan 20:56.892 Reid Ford 36:30.328 5 Kristensen (DK) Honda 20:57.418 Muller (F) Vauxhall 36:33.670 6 Thompson Honda 20:57.499 Neal Nissan 36:37.628 7 Muller (F) Vauxhall 20:58.228 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 36:38.077 8 Plato Vauxhall 20:58.740 Blair Nissan 36:56.905 9 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 21:04.970 Plato Vauxhall 36:59.305 10 Blair Nissan 21:21.830 Morrison Peugeot 36:53.648 Fastest Lap: Thompson 53.082/141.88kph FL: Kristensen 53.493/140.79kph

ROUNDS 9/10 - OULTON PARK, MAY 29 Sprint Race (16 laps) Feature Race (30 laps) 1 *Menu (CH) Ford 23:36.253 *Kristensen (DK) Honda 42:55.580 2 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 23:36.805 Plato Vauxhall 43:05.992 3 Kristensen (DK) Honda 23:37.459 Reid Ford 43:09.396 4 Thompson Honda 23:38.829 Thompson Honda 43:11.188 5 Reid Ford 23:44.368 Muller (F) Vauxhall 43:13.097 6 Neal Nissan 23:45.316 Menu (CH) Ford 43:15.533 7 Plato Vauxhall 23:55.748 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 43:16.611 8 Blair Nissan 24:43.777 Tarquini (I) Honda 43:27.530 9 Tarquini (I) Honda 24:11.722 Neal Nissan 43:55.788 10 Kaye Honda 24:30.658 Kaye Honda 43:13.926 Fastest Lap: Plato 1:24.159/162.60kph FL: Kristensen 1:24.081/162.75kph

ROUNDS 11/12 - SILVERSTONE, JUNE 11 Sprint Race (15 laps) Feature Race (30 laps) 1 Thompson Honda 21:34.371 Muller (F) Vauxhall 43:11.302 2 Reid Ford 21:36.322 Tarquini (I) Honda 43:20.218 3 Kristensen (DK) Honda 21:37.379 Menu (CH) Ford 43:21.428 4 Neal Nissan 21:42.905 Thompson Honda 43:22.435 5 Tarquini (I) Honda 21:43.505 Plato Vauxhall 43:52.562 6 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 21:44.054 Kristensen (DK) Honda 44:26.277 7 Muller (F) Vauxhall 21:52.302 Morrison Peugeot 44:26.324 8 *Rydell (S) Ford 22:18.542 Kaye Honda 44:38.325 9 Blair Nissan 22:19.656 Lemmer Honda 44:43.470 10 Morrison Peugeot 22:18.726 Blair Nissan 44:01.238 *Rydell Fastest Lap: Muller 1:24.840/153.58kph FL: Muller 1:24.448/154.29kph

ROUNDS 13/14 - CROFT, JUNE 25 Sprint Race (15 laps) Feature Race (10 laps) 1 *Rydell (S) Ford 20:44.933 *Rydell (S) Ford 13:56.193 2 Reid Ford 20:45.916 Menu (CH) Ford 13:58.348 3 Neal Nissan 20:46.301 Reid Ford 13:58.737 4 Kristensen (DK) Honda 20:52.629 Neal Nissan 14:02.016 5 Menu (CH) Ford 20:55.775 Thompson Honda 14:02.694 6 Tarquini (I) Honda 20:56.254 Muller (F) Vauxhall 15:05.898 7 Thompson Honda 20:57.349 Kaye Honda 15:20.707 8 Muller Vauxhall 21:03.001 Morrison Peugeot 15:21.800 9 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 21:03.928 Collard Nissan 15:26.587 10 Morrison Peugeot 21:28.625 Kristensen Honda 13:57.745 Fastest Lap: Rydell 1:21.611/150.99kph FL: Rydell 1:22.671/149.06kph

ROUNDS 15/16 - SNETTERTON, JULY 8 Sprint Race (22 laps) Feature Race (20 laps) 1 *Plato Vauxhall 32:35.158 Menu (CH) Ford 26:29.772 2 Kristensen (DK) Honda 32:36.788 Plato Vauxhall 26:30.269 3 Rydell (S) Ford 32:40.714 Thompson Honda 26:31.898 4 Reid Ford 32:41.160 Muller (F) Vauxhall 26:34.378 5 Neal Nissan 32:46.545 *Rydell (S) Ford 26:41.095 6 Tarquini (I) Honda 32:55.098 Reid Ford 26:41.636 7 Morrison Peugeot 32:49.502 Tarquini (I) Honda 26:42.287 8 Kaye Honda 33:00.852 Neal Nissan 26:47.179 9 Lemmer Honda 33:02.126 Collard Nissan 27:08.117 10 Nordon Nissan 33:38.512 Kaye Honda 27:18.240 Fastest Lap: Plato 1:09.395/162.96kph FL: Plato 1:17.279/146.34kph

ROUNDS 17/18 - DONINGTON, JULY 30 Sprint Race (15 laps) Feature Race (30 laps) 1 Reid Ford 24:44.363 *Tarquini (I) Honda 49:48.875 2 Neal Nissan 24:48.383 Neal Nissan 49:52.093 3 Thompson Honda 24:48.880 Reid Ford 49:52.482 4 Muller (F) Vauxhall 24:49.213 Muller (F) Vauxhall 49:54.364 5 Plato Vauxhall 24:57.932 Thompson Honda 50:08.786 6 *Tarquini (I) Honda 25:00.732 Rydell (S) Ford 50:16.809 7 Leslie Nissan 25:01.717 Plato Vauxhall 50:19.201 8 Menu (CH) Ford 25:34.483 Radermecker(B) Vauxhall 50:22.473 9 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 25:38.721 Menu (CH) Ford 50:32.041 10 Kristensen (DK) Honda 25:53.809 Leslie Nissan 50:37.708 Fastest Lap: Reid 1:37.473/148.59kph FL: Reid 1:37.713/148.23kph

ROUNDS 19/20 - BRANDS HATCH (INDY CIRCUIT), AUGUST 28 Sprint Race (25 laps) Feature Race (50 laps) 1 Neal Nissan 20:13.853 Menu (CH) Ford 44:13.353 2 Kristensen (DK) Honda 20:14.448 Rydell (S) Ford 44:16.721 3 *Rydell (S) Ford 20:14.870 Plato Vauxhall 44:16.819 4 Menu (CH) Ford 20:17.442 Reid Ford 44:30.394 5 Muller (F) Vauxhall 20:18.231 Thompson Honda 44:31.466 6 Thompson Honda 20:18.496 Muller (F) Vauxhall 44:31.826 7 Plato Vauxhall 20:19.445 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 44:35.305 8 Reid Ford 20:20.610 *Kristensen (DK) Honda 44:40.872 9 Tarquini (I) Honda 20:21.212 Neal Nissan 44:42.640 10 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 20:39.288 Tarquini (I) Honda 44:44.643 Fastest Lap: Neal 47.294/150.21kph FL: Kristensen 50.451/140.81kph

ROUNDS 21/22 - OULTON PARK, SEPTEMBER 10 Sprint Race (18 laps) Feature Race (35 laps) 1 *Reid Ford 29:12.221 *Tarquini (I) Honda 54:35.541 2 Tarquini (I) Honda 29:12.908 Reid Ford 54:39.388 3 Muller (F) Vauxhall 29:23.634 Muller (F) Vauxhall 54:41.849 4 Thompson Honda 29:24.190 Plato Vauxhall 54:44.687 5 Menu (CH) Ford 29:31.144 Thompson Honda 54:45.059 6 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 29:31.640 Menu (CH) Ford 54:47.820 7 Neal Nissan 29:34394 Neal Nissan 54:48.355 8 Kristensen Honda 29:34.853 Rydell (S) Ford 54:51.539 9 Plato Vauxhall 29:35.107 Kaye Honda 55:01.600 10 Morrison Peugeot 29:58.476 Eaves Peugeot 55:06.349 Fastest Lap: Tarquini 1:23.934/163.03kph FL: Tarquini 1:24.138/162.64kph

ROUNDS 23/24 - SILVERSTONE, SEPTEMBER 16 Sprint Race (15 laps) Feature Race (30 laps) 1 Kristensen (DK) Honda 21:26.760 *Kristensen (DK) Honda 43:29.942 2 *Rydell (S) Ford 21:28.431 Plato Vauxhall 43:34.894 3 Thompson Honda 21:28.855 Menu (CH) Ford 43:36.362 4 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 21:38.885 Radermecker (B) Vauxhall 43.45.961 5 Neal Nissan 21:39.521 Muller (F) Vauxhall 43:53.590 6 Leslie Nissan 21:40.199 Tarquini (I) Honda 43:58.779 7 Reid Ford 21:42.059 Neal Nissan 44:10.698 8 Muller (F) Vauxhall 22:46.274 Thompson Honda 44:50.410 9 Morrison Peugeot 22:10.476 Eaves Peugeot 44:18.334 10 Kaye Honda 22:12.607 Kaye Honda 44:20.568 Fastest Lap: Kristensen 1:24.341/154.49kph FL: Kristensen 1:24.549/154.11kph

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