Saturday 8 May 2004, Silverstone…//VX Racing endured a disappointing qualifying session in the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship, with James Thompson being pipped to pole position in the dying seconds. Team mates, Yvan Muller and Luke Hines suffered similar frustration and will start eighth and tenth respectively.
The three VX Racing drivers began the session in fine form and headed the time sheets during the early stages of the 30-minute qualifying period. Like most of the field, Thompson, Muller and Hines opted for wet tyres, and after setting the early pace they changed places in the top three spots a number of times, but as lap times tumbled VX Racing was the first team to change strategy and use the tactic of combining both wet and dry tyres.
Thompson established the lead mid-way through the session, and continued to extend the gap to the chasing pack. After a blistering lap close to the end Thompson looked unbeatable, but Jason Plato robbed him of pole just as the chequered flag fell. After Muller’s initial decision to change to the combination of slick and wet tyres, he failed to find the optimum set-up and slid down the time sheets, finishing in eighth position.
Hines showed promising early pace, but a collapsed air jack 11 minutes from the end forced him to miss vital track time. Thanks to the VX Racing crew, Hines made it back on to the track before the end of the session, but couldn’t improve on tenth place.
The qualifying results for VX Racing were perhaps more disappointing as all three drivers had fared well in the morning free practice sessions; Muller mastered the difficult weather conditions and heavy spray in the first session to lead for most of the 40 minutes, finishing at the top of the time sheets. Thompson set the fifth quickest time despite carrying the maximum 42kgs of success ballast from his win in round six at Brands Hatch. Hines’ position fluctuated during the session, and he eventually settled for ninth position.
Muller, Thompson and Hines took to the wet circuit for the second session with Hines immediately posting the second quickest time, only to be demoted by his VX Racing team mate. The drivers again battled with the elements and poor visibility, but Muller and Thompson held their respective second and third places during the middle section of the session. Muller finished second quickest with Thompson sixth and Hines again ninth fastest.
James Thompson, Car No. 2
"I am a little disappointed, particularly since I stopped a lap early because of a gear selection problem. It’s a shame, but to be on the front row when I’m carrying maximum success ballast is not too bad, particularly when you consider where other lighter cars are. We just had to persevere with the tyre choice, making sure you got on the tyres early enough to give yourself the best shot, feel your way in to the track."
Yvan Muller, Car No. 1
"What can I say? I am disappointed to be on the fourth row of the grid. The combination of slick tyres on the front and wets on the rear worked well for me at first, but then I changed to all slicks and we just couldn’t seem to find the optimum set-up. We tried a number of things but I finished eighth. It means that I will have to work harder tomorrow."
Luke Hines, Car No. 57
"I had a problem with the air jack just as we were reaching the crucial stages of the session. It was going well until then, and we were just changing to slicks, but there is nothing you can do about bad luck – it’s just part of racing. I did get one lap on slicks towards the end of the session, but I needed two or three. It’s just one of those things. The team will fix the problem and we’ll be ready for the race tomorrow."
Mike Nicholson, VX Racing Operations Manager
"It wasn’t our finest hour! James did a good job because he is carrying maximum ballast. He did the right thing - he came in relatively early, put slicks on and just stuck at it. Luke had some unfortunate time lost when a jack collapsed, so he didn’t really have chance to get into a rhythm, so his tenth place on the grid is actually pretty good. I think this is probably a qualifying session that Yvan would rather forget. But it’s only qualifying, it’s not the race, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.