Vauxhall Motorsport completed a successful shakedown of its 2001 British Touring Car challenger, the Astra Coupe, at the Albacete circuit in central Spain this week. This was the first time that a car built to the new BTC Touring rules was seen in action and paves the way for the rejuvenated 26-race series that has an Easter start at Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. Vauxhall's drivers Yvan Muller and Jason Plato both took part in the tests and proclaimed the Astra Coupe a sure-fire hit all round.
The shakedown was not only significant for Triple Eight Race Engineering, the Brackley based company which has developed and built the new Vauxhall touring car, but also for the new technical regulations which have been brought in by BTC organisers, British Motorsport Promoters Ltd (BMP).
"Overall a moderately productive few days," said Ian Harrison, Triple Eight's Team Director who was in Spain overseeing this first run for the Astra Coupe. "We have put miles on the car, despite being hampered by rain and strong winds which constantly changed the track conditions during our planned four days of tests. As with all shakedowns we have had some minor teething troubles and we've proved the regulation championship parts worked reasonably well."
In a pioneering move to control costs, BMP has stipulated the use of . compulsory standardised components for all cars, which includes the . gearbox, brakes, fuel system, axles, pedals, engine management/data . logging system, plus the use of a new BF Goodrich control tyre. Power . output from the 2.0-litre engines has also been restricted in a move . to provide the race fans with the traditional touring car close and . exciting racing Continued/ .
"It has given our drivers the first taste of how these new-for-2001 cars will perform," said Mike Nicholson, Vauxhall's Motorsport Manager. "Bearing in mind this was their first time in the cars, they were both pleased with the results and enthusiastic about all of the new changes."
Jason Plato was the first to sample the Astra Coupe, when he climbed behind the wheel for its racetrack debut on Thursday.
"The car came through the shakedown OK," said Plato after his two-day stint. "We had a few teething pains but that's what shakedowns are for after all. The Astra Coupe is a serious piece of kit."
French ace Yvan Muller took over from Jason on Monday for his two days, hot from his success in the weekend's ice racing event at Serre Chevalier where he maintained his lead of the Andros Trophy series in which he drives a prototype four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steer Astra.
The next appearance of the Astra Coupe will be in Italy, at the official BTC tyre testing sessions at Vallelunga circuit near Rome next month, when it will be joined by some of the other cars which will take part in the country's premiere motor racing series, the British Touring Car Championship.