Sunny Snetterton soon turned into a rainy night in Norfolk!
By S.P. Sheridan - Motorsport.com
Snetterton, Norfok, UK -2001-August 4 -The Snetterton round of the British Touring Car Championship night races kicked off with the Sprint race which turned into one of the most exciting rounds of the season. Jason Plato was on pole, for this and the feature race. The Sprint event began with Brazilian driver, Thomas Erdos, making what can only be described as a 'blinding start.' He passed Peugeots and one of the Vauxhall's before the first corner. With only 15 laps to go after drivers had already completed two of the 17 laps under safety control (because of severe slippery wet, track conditions), the pack got away when the safety flags were withdrawn. But bad luck struck immediately, the Team Egg-sport driver Phil Bennett's engine gave out, leaving his team mate James Thompson, to battle the front two runners, Yvan Muller and Jason Plato. Plato soon found grip problems and dropped back to 3rd, as Thompson battled with Muller for senior position, Muller, was taking no prisoners. He looked like a man on a mission, as he threw aside all Touring and Production car drivers to reach an almost impossible second in the overall race and first in the Tourers. The production runner, Simon Graves in his Honda Accord made it to the podium again with his second win of the year. Holding off Yvan Muller was no mean feat.
'Battle of the Gladiators' is the only way to describe the 'race of the season,' as the feature got under way (34 laps including pit-stops.}. Plato, Muller, Bennett and Thompson were the order of the race until the sparks started to fly. The wet track conditions temporarily forgotten, Bennett made a beautifully choreographed manoeuvre on Muller for the 2nd spot, then chanced a move on Plato. Plato was having none of it, as the pitiful spark of enthusiasm he earlier portrayed turned into an inferno of determination. Bennett's attempt destroyed them the front right of his car, leaving him with only 50% lighting for the rest of the race.
With more metal on the track than on the cars, the atmosphere was electric and the crowds were buzzing as they watched in awe of the talented drivers, making unbelievable moves, time and time again. The boys continued to play 'Bumper cars', as they had done with a fair ride earlier. This left the team owners hearts in mouths. In addition, each car would cost considerably more to repair than the Tin pots with a spark, (Bumper Cars),
Thompson made a terrific manoeuvre and overtook Muller at the Esses, Muller completed a full 360 turn and then an extra half for good luck. The lead changed more times than John B&Q's name, Bennett slipped back to fourth, Muller held on for third, Plato lost his lead and finished second. James Thompson's push was rewarded for his hard work as he finished first. The race was finally red flagged as a production car had parked on the green stuff at the entrance to Coram Curve and was a danger to the oncoming traffic.
Chatting to the Feature race winner, James Thompson-
M.com:You must be very proud?
JT: "Yeah, very pleased, it's great this early in the year, a little bit unconventional, but we take it as it comes."
M.com: Did you expect to finish the race?
JT: "Well, it's just one of those things, we were struggling with a problem earlier on and the car held in there really well and we took the win, so we can't get any better."
M.com: It seems a really popular win with the spectators.
JT: "I am pleased, it's been a little while since I won, well a couple of weeks since I won and it's nice keeping the crowds awake, I think the fans would like to see a three-way fight for the championship and we are still heading that way, I am only 20 points behind the front two runners. There is still a lot to play for yet, we've got ten races left, so hopefully Croft is usually good circuit for me, I've won quite a few times there so I think were gonna have a bit of a strong round."
M.com: Your team mate had another disappointing race.
JT:"Yeah, I know, a weekend that promised so much for him, it's just one of those things and I feel really sorry for him. I had a poor start to the weekend and it ended up not too badly, it just shows that what goes well sometimes could end up a disaster, it's a funny game motorsport."
M.com: You didn't look too soft out there when you were battling with everyone else.
JT "Well, we've done the best we could."
M.com:Thank you and well done!
JT: "Thank you!"
These boys are ravenous for the driver's title and will stop at nothing in order to be the British Touring Car Champion of 2001. What a race!