BTCC: Vauxhall Motorsport Thruxton preview

Vauxhall Set For Thruxton Thriller Vauxhall Motorsport driver, Jason Plato and Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe driver, James Thompson go into rounds 3 & 4 of the www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship next weekend, May 6/7 as joint ...

Vauxhall Set For Thruxton Thriller

Vauxhall Motorsport driver, Jason Plato and Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe driver, James Thompson go into rounds 3 & 4 of the www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship next weekend, May 6/7 as joint points leaders for the 2.356-mile Thruxton circuit showdown. With Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller and fellow Egg Sport Vauxhall teammate, Phil Bennett also claiming points at the season opener at Brands Hatch on Easter Monday, Plato and Thompson will have to watch their backs. The Astra Coup's success at rounds 1 & 2 does mean however that all four Vauxhall drivers will be carrying extra success ballast.

"We couldn't have asked for a better start to the season," said Vauxhall Motorsport Manager, Mike Nicholson. "Lots of hard work over the winter has resulted in a very competitive car. Obviously the other teams are working hard to catch up and with the extra weight the Astra Coupes will be carrying, we don't expect an easy ride at Thruxton."

Vauxhall's successful start to the BTCC season began with Frenchman, Yvan Muller claiming his first BTCC double pole after a stunning 30-minute qualifying session, followed by a win of the Sprint race. The Feature race at Brands fell to Thompson in the Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe, with Vauxhall Motorsport's Jason Plato scooping a pair of second places. The points tally puts Thompson and Plato level at the top of the BTCC standings.

"It will be interesting to see how much the weight affects us," says Plato. "I am confident though. Following the official TOCA test session at Thruxton last Friday (April 20), unless track conditions change dramatically, I'll start the weekend with a good basic set-up which will then only need fine-tuning. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't achieve quite as much as I wanted to at Brands but hope to put that right at Thruxton. It's a great circuit and I'm looking forward to it."

Muller, who currently lies third in the driver's standings with 20 points, is only six points behind the leaders and knows that it is early days in the season yet. The Frenchman took a double win at Thruxton last year and is confident he can challenge for victories, "I don't think 15kgs will be too much of a problem, from what we can gathered at the test session, the Astra Coupe should be very competitive at Thruxton. We will have to be conservative with the tyres as it is a very hard wearing track but that is something every driver experiences there, no matter what make of tyre or car they are using."

Responsible for design, build and running of the four Vauxhall Astra Coupes is Brackley-based race preparation company, Triple Eight Race Engineering Ltd. whose Director, Derek Warwick is Team Manager of the Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupes.

Race weekends take on a different format this year with the traditional Friday test sessions scrapped as part of the effort to cut costs. Instead, a more compact race programme has been devised. The BTC Touring cars will not turn a wheel until qualifying day when they have two 45-minute free practice sessions.

This year BTC Production and Touring cars have their own individual 30-minute qualifying sessions with next Sunday's BTC Touring car qualifying session starting at 3.45pm. Qualifying itself will be different: the best two lap times determine grid positions - of those two times, the one set earlier in the session will be the used for the Sprint race grid and the one set later is used for the Main race grid.

Bank Holiday Monday's on-track action begins at 12.45pm and the 8-lap Super Sprint Race for BTC Touring cars only, starts at 2.25pm. The 32-lap main Feature Race gets under way at 4.35pm with the touring and production cars battling out it out together. The traditional pit walkabout and autograph session returns again to Thruxton where fans can meet their touring car heroes in person and snap up any team goodies being given away. All four Astra Coupe drivers will be present at the pit walkabout and autograph session, which takes place between 11.15am and noon on race day (Monday).

Television coverage will be shown the following weekend on BBC's Grandstand. TOCA Radio will be available on 1602MW giving listeners at the event, and in the surrounding area, all the inside news, results and paddock gossip.

-Vauxhall

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