BTCC: Vauxhall Motorsport Oulton Park race report

www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship 2001 Rounds 19/20 - Oulton Park, August 26 All-change again at the top of this year's British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). As Britain's leading racing series enters its final string of ...

www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship 2001
Rounds 19/20 - Oulton Park, August 26

All-change again at the top of this year's British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). As Britain's leading racing series enters its final string of races, Vauxhall Motorsport's Jason Plato holds a 10-point advantage over teammate Yvan Muller. Both took race winning scores at Oulton Park's circuit in Cheshire today, but Plato gained the upper hand as Muller's Astra Coupe exited stage left in the Feature Race following a high speed spin which saw him finally come to rest in the gravel trap. James Thompson took points for fourth and second places maintaining his overall third place in the points standings, while Andy Priaulx, replacement for a one-race sidelined Phil Bennett, excelled in scoring a double-pole start on his BTCC debut.

It was Yvan Muller's good start ahead of pole-man and BTCC rookie, Andy Priaulx, which gave him the all-important victory in the 15-lap Sprint Race this afternoon. With Priaulx bogged down by too much wheel-spin, the championship leader leapt into action as he led the field into the first corner (Old Hall) of the 2.36-mile circuit. Steve Soper meanwhile took full advantage of Egg Sport Astra Coupe driver, James Thompson starting his race from the back of the grid (due to an engine change), and started to hassle Priaulx, who was lying in second. It didn't take Thompson long though to begin his charge up through the field and he began picking off his competitors one by one without getting into too much trouble.

With Priaulx having to defend his line quite heavily against Soper, Muller used the opportunity to put some space between them ever conscious of the extra 60kgs he carried over the BTCC newcomer. But it was soon Soper who found himself under pressure from Vauxhall Motorsport's Jason Plato, leaving Priaulx to concentrate on catching the Frenchman at the front. Plato knew his chance to take Soper would come - a move which was finally made on lap four at Cascades. Thompson, ever ready to take full advantage of circumstances also saw his chance, taking Soper on lap five for fourth place in the Touring Cars. From that point on, positions remained the same as the four Astra Coupes carved their way through the Production class cars. Muller took the chequered flag 0.543 seconds ahead of Priaulx who was closely followed by Plato (the fastest man on the track) and Thompson.

Priaulx won the Feature race rolling start dash to the first corner, edging ahead of Plato and Muller, but second time around the Cheshire circuit the Phil Bennett one-race replacement came under pressure from Plato, who eased down the right side of the Egg Sport car. Muller too carried more speed out of the corner and opted for a look down the left side of the Priaulx car at that same time, when two wheels on the grass turned into four and with it the inevitable spin. Muller was lucky to avoid contact with the barrier and as the Astra Coupe continued backwards across the track into the gravel of the next corner, it was lucky not to make contact with Thompson's car.

The result was a race lead for Plato, which he managed to hold through to the chequered flag. For Priaulx though, smoke from his engine foretold of retirement, leaving the way clear for Thompson to close on Plato after the pitstops, but the Oxford man held on strongly to win and scoop a 10 points BTCC lead.

Yvan Muller, Car 4, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - Winner, Feature - DNF
"I'm really pleased with my Sprint Race win, I couldn't have done better especially as I wasn't actually very comfortable. I knew Andy Priaulx would be quicker carrying 60kgs less in his Astra Coupe and that he would have fewer brake and tyre problems in the last seven or eight laps of the race. I had to be focussed and give it 100% without making any mistakes. That was probably my best victory this year. I'm very disappointed not to finish the Feature Race. At this point in the championship it is not good and it is points wasted."

Jason Plato, Car 5, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - 3rd, Fastest lap: 1:28.498, Feature - Winner, Fastest lap: 1:28.220
"I had a good fight with Soper in the Sprint Race, it was clever, defensive driving from him. He was off like a rocket down the straights so I knew I had to gobble back the time in the braking areas and catch him, which eventually I did. After that it was a case of pushing the Astra Coupe as hard as I could to try to catch Andy. That was a cracking Feature Race, I do feel sorry for Yvan as I know it must grate but there's still a long, long way to go yet. There's only a few points between us even though I've got the slight advantage. I think I over compensated by looking after the brakes and tyres before the pitstop and when I came out of the pits, Soper was ahead. James (Thompson) and I decided not to fight it out between us until we had caught him but then he started smoking anyway and eventually pulled off."

James Thompson, Car 9, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 4th, Feature - 2nd
"I changed my engine before the start of the Sprint Race which meant I started at the back of the grid so I really had my work cut out. But, I pushed hard, there was a bit of weaving and dodging here and there and I was through to fourth without any damage to the car, which I'm pleased about. I don't know what happened with O'Neill (Production class) at the first corner, we were going down the straight side by side and I think he just didn't see me. He went off and I was left with a bit of a vibration so I decided to back off after that and keep my fourth place. The Feature Race start was definitely the best start of the year, there was no bunching up which is really important at this circuit. Later on I got stuck behind Soper so I decided to come in for my pitstop but my front left wheel jammed and I reckon I lost four or five seconds there. Both Jason and I came out of the pits behind Soper so I called in over the radio that we shouldn't squabble against each other but get him first. As it was he pulled off and from then on I just wanted to keep the points."

Andy Priaulx, Car 18, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 2nd, Feature - DNF
"I'm very pleased to be on the podium in my first touring car race. I did have a bit too much wheel-spin at the start of the Sprint, which meant I lost my pole position advantage to Yvan (Muller) going into the first corner. I drove a pretty conservative first couple of laps as I didn't want to get caught up in any unnecessary wrangling and then found I had to defend against Soper who was right behind me. Fortunately once Jason (Plato) caught up with him, it took the pressure off me and I was able to concentrate on chasing Yvan. Obviously it's a bit disappointing not to finish the Feature Race especially as I was getting faster and faster when I understood the car more. The incident with Yvan happened when I kept my line; Jason came down my right side, Yvan was on my left and as we came round the corner, we just ran out of track. But, I've really enjoyed the weekend and I know that touring cars is where I want to be." <pre>

www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship Rounds 19/20 - Oulton Park, August 26

Sprint Race (Round 19 - 15 laps)

1 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23:17.898 2 Andy Priaulx Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23:18.441 3 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23:20.432 4 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23:30.773 5 Roger Moen Peugeot 306 23:35.902 (P) 6 Simon Harrison Peugeot 306 23:37.536 (P) 7 Gavin Pyper Alfa Romeo 156 23:40.632 (P) 8 Tim Harvey Alfa Romeo 147 23:41.393 9 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 23:43.857 10 Mat Jackson Ford Focus 23:47.745 (P) Fastest Lap: Jason Plato, lap 6 - 1:28.498 - 96.08mph/154.63kph

Feature Race (Round 20 - 33 laps)

1 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 52:52.624 2 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 52:54.936 3 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 53:17.946 4 Mark Blair Alfa Romeo 147 53:43.442 5 Tim Harvey Alfa Romeo 147 53:44.792 6 Thomas Erdos Lexus IS200 53:45.570 Fastest Lap: Jason Plato, lap 20 - 1:28.220 - 96.38mph/155.11kph

Drivers Championship (after Rd 20 of 26)

1 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 260 points 2 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 250 3 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 231 4 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupe 116 5 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupe 82 6 Dan eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 79

Manufacturers Championship (after Rd 20) 1 Vauxhall 696 points (2001 Champions) 2 Peugeot 205

Teams Championship (after Rd 20) 1 Vauxhall Motorsport 210 2 Egg Sport 169 3 Peugeot Sport UK 66 5 ABG Motorsport 37 6 JSM 29

-Vauxhall Motorsport

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