The penultimate rounds of the Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship at Cheshire's Oulton Park circuit next weekend (September 9/10) are going to be crucial to the championship hopes of Vauxhall drivers, Yvan Muller and Jason Plato. Rounds 21 and 22 will be broadcast live on Sunday's BBC2 Grandstand programme; viewers and track-side spectators alike, will be able to watch as Vauxhall's leading drivers battle for valuable championship points on the 2.36-mile Island Circuit.
French ace, Yvan Muller lies fourth in the drivers' Championship standings after a frustrating weekend at Brands Hatch. Muller would benefit most from a major points haul at Oulton Park as he is the driver best positioned to challenge the Ford trio at the top of the table. Good results in Cheshire next weekend are vital if he is to take his title campaign down to the wire at Silverstone's end of season finale.
"There's no doubt I need to do well at Oulton Park," said Muller. "And although Brands Hatch was not a great weekend, it does mean I will not be carrying any extra ballast, so I am fairly optimistic that I will be able to challenge for points."
Fresh from his recent Feature Race third place podium at Brands Hatch, and currently in fifth place in the driver's standings, Vauxhall team-mate Jason Plato is looking forward to the challenge. A consistent front-runner throughout the season, Oxford-based Plato has been stamping his mark on the championship this year proving himself a genuine title contender.
Although the odds may be against him, he has no intention of giving the championship leaders an easy run.
"I'm all revved up and feeling confident after my result at Brands," said Plato. "We went well at Oulton Park earlier in the season and so expect to be strong again next weekend. I finished second last time and narrowly missed out on a win so I shall be hoping for more podium visits. Oulton Park really suits the Vectra and as it's also one of my favourite circuits, I expect to be strong enough to really attack."
Completing the Triple Eight Race Engineering-run team is Vincent Radermecker. The Belgian took his first podium position of the season at Oulton Park in May and will be hoping for a repeat performance.
One of the longest tracks on the BTCC calendar, Oulton Park's Island Circuit can be a demanding and unforgiving challenge for the drivers. With most of the significant corners directly followed by a long, fast straight, so it may penalise the success-ballast carrying cars in terms of accelerating out of these bends.
From the start, it is a quick sprint down to one of the most difficult corners on the track, Old Hall. Care should be taken not to turn in too quickly and run over the exit kerbs too much. Fast down to Cascades next where drivers will need to brake hard for this tricky left-hand bend. A balanced exit from Cascades is important for the approach into Fosters where spectators can expect plenty of thrilling overtaking manoeuvres. Slow in and fast out through Knickerbrook seems to be the key here for the uphill section.
The final two corners, Druids and Lodge are crucial and mistakes are not uncommon. Druids is acknowledged as the most difficult corner on the circuit and is responsible for catching many drivers out. A good entry line is vital if this corner is to be mastered. This is followed by Lodge Corner, a 90 degree right-hander and another favourite for overtaking. Competitors aim to turn in late and exit late. However, the following dip can cause problems before the field makes its way down the start/finish straight to complete the lap.
Testing takes place on Friday September 8 before the weekend's qualifying action on Saturday September 9. Feature Race qualifying begins at 11.30am and is followed by the One-Shot session at 2.30pm. Sunday's race action starts with the 15-lap Sprint Race (Round 21) at 12.30pm with the 30-lap Feature Race (Round 22) scheduled for 3.40pm - both shown live on BBC2 Grandstand.
Members of the public will have the opportunity to meet the Vauxhall Motorsport Touring Car Team drivers during the traditional Pit Walkabout/Autograph Session, which takes place on Sunday morning at 11.15am.