www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)
Donington Park - September 22/23 2001
Vauxhall Drivers Go Head To Head
It's showdown time in the Vauxhall Motorsport camp this weekend as championship contenders, Yvan Muller and Jason Plato head to the penultimate rounds of the www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Donington Park, September 22/23. Testament to Vauxhall's commitment to give each of its drivers a free rein to battle on equal footing for the championship title, Britain's Plato currently leads the points standings over French teammate, Muller, but only by the slimmest of margins - 5 points. The pair have been trading places on the track and in the points table throughout the season and after the previous round at Silverstone which saw Plato penalised by 30-seconds in the Feature Race for a last lap incident with Muller, it is evident that this battle is real and not just for show.
Vauxhall Motorsport Manager, Mike Nicholson fully expects the title fight to go down to the wire: "It is no surprise that we should find ourselves just two race weekends away from the end of the season with no clear title holder. Vauxhall has two of the best touring car drivers in the business, and having given them equal equipment in the Astra Coupé - the best car on the grid, this is just how a championship should be. I'm looking forward to a good, clean fight to the end."
However, this weekend's second visit to Donington's 2.5-mile circuit could not have come at a worse time for Muller. "Donington is not the best circuit for me. It is a hard braking circuit and does not suit my style of driving. I start to think too much about saving my brakes and as a result, lose some performance. I am going to need an especially good balance set-up on my Astra Coupé at Donington to compensate."
Plato meanwhile is looking to put the events of the last round behind him: "Obviously I'm upset to have lost the seven points advantage I would have gained through a win. I don't believe I was at fault but I'm a professional and have to accept the penalty and take it on the chin."
The Oxford-based driver took a race win and a second place podium at Donington when the BTCC raced there in July and is hoping to capitalise on his main rival's Achilles heel. "Yvan is harder on the brakes than I am so I'm hoping that will work in my favour. I'll also be working on my qualifying performance. I didn't qualify that well last time and although I raced well, it's an area I need to improve on. But on the whole, I'm looking forward to it, roll on Donington!"
Hot the heels however of the Vauxhall Motorsport duo, are fellow Astra Coupé drivers, Egg Sport's James Thompson and Phil Bennett. The pair took a win apiece at the previous rounds with Bennett finally claiming his maiden win of the season at Silverstone. Having tasted victory once, he'll be hungry for more.
The weekend's BTCC touring car action starts at 4pm on Saturday afternoon (September 22) with the 30-minute qualifying session. The traditional pitlane walkabout and autograph session takes place on Sunday, race day, between 11:45am and 12:30pm. Touring car race action gets under way with the 15-lap Sprint race at 12:55pm whilst the 27-lap Feature race is scheduled for 3:30pm.