BTCC: Snetterton Vauxhall Motorsport race report

<pre> 2001 www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship Rounds 15 & 16 - Snetterton - Races - 4 August </pre> Muller and Thompson set the nighttime alight at Snetterton Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller and Egg Sport's James ...

<pre> 2001 www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship Rounds 15 & 16 - Snetterton - Races - 4 August </pre> Muller and Thompson set the nighttime alight at Snetterton

Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller and Egg Sport's James Thompson shared the spoils in the pair of Snetterton British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) night races on Saturday. Muller won the round 15 Sprint race while Thompson slipped past a battling Muller and Jason Plato to take the Feature race win (Round 16), all driving Vauxhall Astra Coupes. Plato maintained his overall BTCC lead after scoring his second double-pole start of the season, finishing both races in second place.

The 17-lap Sprint was held in wet conditions and saw Muller lead into the first corner from Thompson and Plato. Thompson closed on Muller in the second corner, but was pushed wide and took the remainder of the lap to catch and maintain pressure on the leader. Plato dropped back to fourth when Thomas Erdos (Lexus) put rear-wheel-drive traction to good advantage off the startline.

By mid-distance, Plato had passed Thompson for second place after the Egg Sport driver was boxed-in by production cars. Plato was able to close on Muller's lead, but never close enough to challenge his Vauxhall Motorsport teammate, who took the Touring Car win and narrowed the gap to Plato's championship lead to just a single point.

Thompson took points for third, while Bennett sat licking his wounds after pitting during the installation lap with a transmission problem.

The shortened 27-lap Feature race was held in darkness and wet, slowly drying conditions. All Astras started on wet tyres with Plato taking the lead ahead of Muller and Bennett, Thompson back in fourth. Positions changed in lap 11 when Bennett passed Muller for second place and closed up on Plato 's lead. A lap later and Bennett outbraked Plato to take the race lead, but contact on the exit from the corner sent Bennett off the track and damaged the front of his Egg Sport Astra Coupe against the barriers.

Bennett pitted immediately, changed front tyres and had the damaged bodywork removed, but it dropped him way down the running order. Plato pitted after 13 laps and left with his wet tyres replaced with four slicks to cope better with the drying track conditions. Muller did the same one lap later.

The two Vauxhall Motorsport cars produced the battle of the race for the 16,500 Snetterton fans, with typical Touring Cars bumping and barging providing the action, but both Muller and Plato suffered as a consequence, and that allowed a fast improving Thompson to make a move and pass both of them for the race lead with less than 10 laps to go to the scheduled finish.

With six laps to go, the red flags came out after two cars spun on oil dropped on a fast part of the circuit. That caught out Muller, who survived a really high speed spin, narrowly avoiding a collision with Dan Eaves' Peugeot, which had planted itself in the barrier two laps previously. The race officials decided to end the race there and ten, giving Thompson the win ahead of Plato and Muller.

Plato left Snetterton with a narrowly extended championship lead, four points ahead of Muller in the chase for this year's title, and ready for the next races the following weekend at Croft circuit near Darlington.

Jason Plato, Car 5 - Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Result: Sprint - 3rd, 2nd BTC Touring: Feature - 2nd
"I was on a different setup, with my Astra Coupe on dry race settings for the Sprint. So now we have to change everything around before the Feature race, it felt like a dead animal in my hand. I made a bad start, too much front camber and zero grip. I saw it all kicking off in front of me halfway through the race and took my chance to pass James for second place. The setup cost me three points. In the Feature race, Phil bit off way more than he could chew, way more. As he was passing me he just lost it and there was nowhere for me to go. I had a good beginning of race, I dropped my pace a bit waiting until it got drier. Yvan and I diced at the Esses which took us both off but later a similar thing happened, which sent me off into the boonies and Yvan got past. It was the right thing to stop the race although of course it was a difficult call - I'm sure it would have been a cracking last 6 laps. But James drove a cracking race and he deserved to win."

Yvan Muller (F), Car 4 - Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Result: Sprint - 2nd, Winner BTC Touring, Fastest Lap (1m 23.817s): Feature - 3rd
" I have to say I haven't really enjoyed this weekend especially as the track conditions have been difficult and the grip low. I made a good start in the Sprint, much better than Jason. James also made a better start than Jason and was close behind me. In the first corner I though I'd stay flat out and see what happened, and the same for the second, when James went wide. My Astra Coupe had a better mid to end of race setup, so I tried not to make any mistakes. At one point towards the end there were production cars fighting ahead of me, I chose to go through the middle - big mistake, a Peugeot hit me from the right and a Ford from the left, I was a bit worried I may have done some damage to my car, but it was all OK. I had a setup for damp conditions in the Feature Race. There was no way I could fight with Phil so I let him past (lap 11) and then I had a bit of a fight with Jason. I think I made my pitstop too late but it was difficult to see if the line was dry. After that I made two mistakes as I was pushing too hard and Jason overtook me. By then, the track was too dry for my setup and James was coming up behind me and I had to let him past. I had a big spin just before the red flag, I really thought my line was OK but I lost it too much for it to have just been damp on the track. I really thought I would hurt myself that time but I down-shifted to get out of trouble. This thing with Jason, if you want someone out it's easy, I can do that as well."

Phil Bennett, Car 27 - Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Result: Sprint - DNS: Feature - 6th
"Very disappointed after a front row position to go out even before the Sprint race started, it looks like a transmission problem. The Feature race was going well, I had the speed and passed Yvan. I caught Jason and made a good clean move to pass him for the race lead, then the next thing I knew, I was hit in the back. I don't know why."

James Thompson, Car 9 - Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Result: Sprint - 6th, 3rd BTC Touring: Feature - Winner
"Good start in the Sprint, was right up with Yvan and in the second corner he gave me a little rub and I went wide - he was just saying hello. Later I was hit by one of the production cars and was boxed in, when another one in front of me spun, I lost second place to Jason as a result. I'm very pleased with that Feature race win as it hadn't been a great weekend until then. I had a good middle of race, I was on slicks by then and back in contention, with the pace to catch up. I had made changes to my Astra Coupe setup between the races and although I'm not convinced they were positive changes, I've come away with a race win which is what counts. Hopefully we can get some good results next weekend at Croft."

<pre>

Sprint race (17 laps)

1 Simon Graves Honda Accord (P) 24:59.964 2 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 25:00.056 3 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 25:02.738 4 Gareth Howell Ford Focus 25:05.336 5 Robert Collard Renault Clio 25:07.186 6 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 25:07.461

Feature race (27 laps)

1 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 37:17.912 2 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 37:19.029 3 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 37:28.351 4 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupe 38:15.112 5 Thomas Erdos Lexus IS200 38:22.181 6 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupe 38:31.503

BTCC Driver's Overall (after 16 rounds of 26):

1 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 207 points 2 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 203 3 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 189 4 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupe 111 5 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupe 75 6 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 53

Manufacturers:

1 Vauxhall  558 points (Champions)
2 Peugeot  165

Teams:

1 Vauxhall Motorsport  168 points
2 Team Egg Sport  147
3 Peugeot Sport UK  50
4 ABG Motorsport  24
5 JSM    15

-Vauxhall Motorsports

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