Thompson and Muller continue Vauxhall winning streak.
Vauxhall's Yvan Muller consolidated his Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship lead as he and team-mate James Thompson took a win apiece in rounds seven and eight of the series in front of 17,000 spectators at Silverstone today (Sunday). GA Motorsports' Gavin Pyper and Barwell Motorsport's Luke Hines were both double winners, with back-to-back victories in the Hilton Independents Trophy and Production class respectively.
In the first race, it was Thompson, the reigning champion, who led home Muller in their Vauxhall Astra Coupes, but only after the Honda Civic Type- R of Matt Neal cruelly retired in the closing stages whilst on course for victory. Thompson also gained vital extra points for having qualified on pole position, leading the race and setting fastest lap.
Behind, MG's Colin Turkington took advantage of mechanical problems for team-mate Warren Hughes to give his team their first podium finish of the season in third. He was followed across the line by Honda team-mates Alan Morrison and Tom Chilton and Pyper, who brought GA's Vauxhall Astra Coupe home in sixth to take Independents honours.
The second race saw Muller beat Thompson away from the line to take an instant lead that, apart from during the mandatory pit stops mid-race, he would keep until the chequered flag. However, both he and Thompson could have faced another mighty challenge from Neal had the Honda driver's car again not suffered mechanical failure as he closed in on them having carved his way through to third from the back of the field. Neal's only consolation was the race's fastest lap.
Muller was thus able to cruise to victory, his fourth in five races, with Thompson second. Warren Hughes took MG's second podium finish of the day with third after battling past team-mate Anthony Reid in fourth. Hughes had also come through from the back of the grid, like Neal having been forced to start there following his retirement from the first race. Vauxhall's Paul O'Neill was fifth to maintain his third place overall in the championship, Chilton sixth and Pyper, who lost out to the Honda driver with a lap to go, seventh for a second Independents Trophy victory.
The gap between Muller and Thompson at the top of the table is now 19 points, with O'Neill a further 36 behind. With their drivers 1-2-3 in the drivers' title race, Vauxhall have also further stretched their already commanding leads in both the teams and manufacturers' championships. Honda lie second in both, with MG third and Proton fourth.
Muller, though, insists winning is not easy for Vauxhall and the championship, with 12 rounds of 20 still to go, could quickly swing in their rivals' favour. "Sure, I'm very happy with these two results but we've seen in the past how things can change very quickly. Winning is never easy. We've seen today that Honda and MG are both very strong and able to challenge us. The championship remains wide open."
Thompson agreed, adding: "I think the Astra has the edge, but because the others either keep crashing or breaking down you're not seeing just how close it is out there. If either Matt or Warren had started that second race today from near the front of the grid, and Matt in particular had not had his problems, who knows what the result might have been?"
Proton also showed improved form at Silverstone, but their drivers David Leslie and Phil Bennett were out of luck. In the first race, Bennett retired at the first bend with suspension damage to his Impian, Leslie after his car was struck by Reid's MG during the mandatory tyre change pit stops. Reid was punished with a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident. The second race saw Leslie battle his way through for a tenth- place finish, but Bennett was frustratingly forced to retire just a few corners from the line.
Morrison, targeting O'Neill's tenure of third in the championship, was also left to rue what might have been in the second race. He briefly threatened both Muller and Thompson in the opening stages but lost places after running wide off the track. His race ended shortly afterwards when his Honda spun off the track following a clash with Turkington's MG.
Pyper, meanwhile, is the new leader of the Hilton Independents Trophy, ahead of Synchro Honda Racing's James Kaye who had headed the points standings arriving at Silverstone. Kaye's eighth place in today's opening race meant the pair went into the second tied on points. But Kaye lost any chance of challenging Pyper when his car was damaged in a clash with O'Neill's Vauxhall and he was forced to retire in the pitlane.
Rob Collard also remains in the hunt for the Independents Trophy title, thanks to his team working round the clock to repair their battered Astra Coupe following its heavy crash at Thruxton a fortnight ago. He retired from today's first race, but in the second finished ninth overall to earn valuable points as the second-highest Independents runner and stay third in the standings.
There was also a successful return to the BTCC's Independents Trophy for Gareth Howell, in his GA-entered Astra Coupe. He briefly led the first race during the pit stops before finishing ninth. In the second, he was right behind Pyper when his car cruelly hit problems shortly before the end.
Team Halfords suffered a difficult day with their Peugeot 307s. Drivers Dan Eaves and Carl Breeze both retired from the first race. In the second, Breeze failed to start and Eaves crashed out heavily following contact with a rival competitor.
By contrast, Luke Hines and Barwell Motorsport were all smiles, as the 21- year-old swept to his and his team's first Production class victories this season. The team's day was made in the second race when Alan Blencowe crossed the line behind team-mate Hines for a memorable 1-2 finish. Barwell have also built themselves a considerable lead in the Production class teams' championship.
Second and fourth places in Edenbridge Racing's BMW 320i, however, have kept Michael Bentwood at the top of the Production class standings, but only eight points clear of Hines.
Blencowe lies third, with Team Varta team-mates Jim Edwards and Tom Boardman and GA's Paul Wallace completing the top six. Edwards and Boardman's best results today were a fourth and fifth respectively, whilst Wallace took a deserved third in the second race.
Rounds nine and ten of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship take place at the Rockingham circuit near Corby, Northamptonshire, on Saturday 21st/Sunday 22nd June.