BTCC: Vauxhall Oulton Park preview

Spectators should prepare themselves for a real battle next weekend, May 19/20 as Vauxhall's mighty Astra Coupes take to the 2.36-mile Oulton Park Island circuit for Rounds 5 & 6 of the www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship. Last ...

Spectators should prepare themselves for a real battle next weekend, May 19/20 as Vauxhall's mighty Astra Coupes take to the 2.36-mile Oulton Park Island circuit for Rounds 5 & 6 of the www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship.

Last weekend's BTCC Thruxton thriller saw British Vauxhall Motorsport driver, Jason Plato emerge as championship leader on 55 points with French team-mate, Yvan Muller lying only six points behind in overall second place. Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe drivers, James Thompson from Yorkshire and West Midlands' Phil Bennett complete the top four in Britain's premiere motor racing series with 46 and 38 points respectively.

Plato claimed his first win of the season at Thruxton taking the newly formatted 15-lap Sprint Race by storm and to the delight of packed grandstands, skilfully carved his way through the Production class field from one lap down. Muller lost his opening lap advantage to Plato and followed him home in second. The 30-lap main Feature Race saw Muller using a combination of brute horsepower and tactics to exact revenge for his Feature Race non-finish at Brands Hatch. With Plato in for the first of his compulsory pit stops, Muller pushed hard to put time between them and after completing his own slick pit stop, emerged as race leader - a position he held for the remainder of the race. Plato finished close behind in second with Bennett lining up third on the podium in the Egg Sport Astra Coupe.

Oxford-based Plato will be looking to consolidate his championship lead at Oulton Park although four podium finishes on the run result in his Astra Coupe carrying an extra 51kg in success ballast.

"Oulton Park is going to be quite tough - it won't be easy tackling a circuit like that with 51kg on board. Set-up will be crucial, it's something I've noticed particularly this season. Yvan and I are almost on a par with times, and minor set-up differences between us are making a big impression on who is the faster on the day. I'll be aiming to have established as good a set-up as possible during free practice to give me the best chance for the weekend. I can't wait!"

Team-mate, Muller who will be carrying 42kg in success ballast is looking forward to the challenge of Oulton Park.

"I will definitely have to be more conservative in my expectations for Oulton Park because of the extra ballast which I have been accumulating. It's not as much as Jason but the main aim for the weekend is to gain as many points as possible from podium positions - a win would be a bonus. I'm looking forward to the weekend though, Oulton is one of my favourite tracks."

Although all four Triple Eight Race Engineering-built Astra Coupes have dominated the season so far, the team expects a tough few months ahead with Peugeot, Alfa Romeo and Lexus, whose IS200 is the only rear-wheel drive entered, all snapping at their heels.

The weekend's on-track activities begin with the new 15-lap BTCC Sprint Race at 12.55pm on Sunday. The 30-lap main Feature Race gets under way at 3.30pm. The traditional pit walkabout and autograph session returns again to Oulton Park 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 12.00 on race day (Sunday).

Oulton Park spectators should also expect a repeat of the thrilling Sprint Race seen at Thruxton. The revised format of combining both Touring and Production classes but handicapping the faster and more powerful Touring cars by one lap, proved itself a hit with drivers and track-side supporters alike.

Television coverage will be shown the following weekend on BBC 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 Motorsport

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