BTCC: Third win for Vauxhall after dramatic final race

Yvan Muller secured a clean-sweep for VX Racing with the team’s third win of the day in the British Touring Car Championship at Mondello Park. Muller held off a strong challenge from Arena Motorsports driver Tom Chilton to take his second win...

Yvan Muller secured a clean-sweep for VX Racing with the team’s third win of the day in the British Touring Car Championship at Mondello Park. Muller held off a strong challenge from Arena Motorsports driver Tom Chilton to take his second win of the event and close the lead even more to championship leader Matt Neal.

Jason Plato started in pole position after his tenth place in race two with SEAT Sport UK team-mate James Pickford starting alongside him on the front row. Chilton lined up third on the grid alongside Jason Hughes in his MG ZS. Chilton crept slowly as the red light came on but he was able to halt the car in time and then make a perfect getaway to move right behind Plato on the inside. Pickford moved alongside his team-mate to ensure both SEATs were firmly ahead going into the first corner but his wider line allowed Chilton past on the inside and Muller followed through as well to knock Pickford down to fourth.

Muller tailed Plato closely through the first few corners and then tried to put his nose in front going into the Esses. The pair touched twice but Plato held his line to squeeze Muller to the inside and tighter line. Muller got the quicker line out of Parabolica and beat Plato in the drag race down to Tarzan. West Surrey Racing driver Rob Collard then lightly tapped Plato under braking and took the opportunity to slip by into third place.

Collard led a queue of cars at the start of the second lap consisting of the three SEATs of Plato, Pickford and Luke Hines. Plato dived down the inside at the first corner and forced Collard wide onto the grass at the exit. Plato moved to the left to take his line on the same piece of tarmac that Collard was using to rejoin the track and the pair touched sending Plato sideways through the long left-hander and putting him way down the field.

Pickford then optimistically tried his luck at Bridgestone but Collard moved across to close the door and the two cars touched, this time with Collard being sent sideways, and both cars ran wide on the grass. This allowed Hines into third with Team Dynamics drivers Dan Eaves and Matt Neal close behind. Hines was consistantly slower out of the faster corners and Eaves closed up and passed at the first corner of lap three.

Neal tried to follow his team-mate through past Hines but was tapped by VX Racing driver Gavin Smith and sent into a sideways slide. He kept control of the car and remained ahead of the pack of three cars around him consisting of Turkington, Smith and Hines. The right-front door of Hines’s SEAT started to flap open and he was quickly engulfed by Neal, Plato, Smith and Turkington. Hines desperately tried not to lose any more places but he was tapped into a spin by Synchro Motorsport’s James Kay and spun backwards into the gravel and into retirement.

Chilton was being hounded by Muller as the pair pulled away from the chasing pack by one second per lap. Muller got a great line out of the final corner on lap five and dived inside Chilton at the first corner as the Honda Civic Type-R driver slid slightly under braking and drifted wide.

Eaves was running in third place with Plato just over a second behind and Neal one second further behind. Eaves made a small mistake on lap nine and allowed Plato to close right up. Plato got the best line on the back straight but Eaves moved to the inside to defend his line into the approaching right-hand hairpin. Eaves drifted back to the left-hand side of the track under braking, clipped the front of Plato’s car and was briefly sent sideways before recovering. Neal then took advantage of Plato’s loss of momentum to dive inside at the exit of the Tarzan hairpin but both drivers went for the same piece of tarmac, with Plato ending up in the tyre barriers and Neal in the gravel but able to rejoin. Plato eventually got going but crawled back to the pits with a right-front puncture and retired.

This left Muller leading narrowly ahead of Chilton, with Eaves now fifteen seconds behind ahead of Turkington, Collard and Smith. The Safety Car was deployed because of Plato’s accident and it stayed out on circuit for one lap. The cars retained their positions at the restart although Collard put in an extremely impressive run over the final few laps to move past Turkington on lap thirteen, after a lap and a half of intense pressure, to take fourth and then took Eaves with a brave manoeuvre around the outside of the first corner of the last lap to move up to third.

Muller crossed the line to take the win one second ahead of second-placed Chilton with Collard leading home a queue of cars to take third. Muller's win moves him up to just thirteen points behind championship leader Neal who could only manage seventh. Eaves remains in third place fourteen points behind Muller with Plato a futher 42 points behind in fourth.

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