BTCC: Vauxhall Racing Silverstone race report

Silverstone 8 June 2003/... James Thompson took his third win of the season and Yvan Muller notched up his fourth victory in the seventh and eighth races of the British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone today. Paul O'Neill endured two...

Silverstone 8 June 2003/... James Thompson took his third win of the season and Yvan Muller notched up his fourth victory in the seventh and eighth races of the British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone today. Paul O'Neill endured two tough races and settled for seventh and fifth.

Race 1

Reigning BTCC Champion, James Thompson in the Vauxhall Astra Coupe, led the pack off the startline from his pole position, but was quickly challenged by the lighter car of Matt Neal, Honda Racing. Thompson held off Neal for the first lap, but gave in through Abbey on the second lap. Yvan Muller retained his third place start position, while O'Neill suffered severe handling problems from the off and gradually dropped back through the field, attempting to stay out until the first pit window.

After the action of the first couple of laps, the VX Racing drivers settled down, with Thompson and Muller staying in second and third positions respectively. After the mandatory pit stops, the VX Racing drivers - James Thompson, Yvan Muller and Paul O'Neill settled into 2nd, 3rd and 10th positions. Thompson set the fastest lap of the race on lap 14 and chased Neal hard over the remainder of the race. Following mechanical failure for Neal on lap 22, Thompson inherited the lead. Muller was promoted to second place and O'Neill eighth, having moved up a place due to a drive through penalty for Anthony Reid. A slowing Warren Hughes gave O'Neill another place, to give him seventh place finish at the chequered flag.

James Thompson:
"You could say it was a lucky win, as we've all had our engine problems, but all credit must go to our engine builders, as that was our Achilles heel last year. Even though other people were quicker than us in the race, you've got to get to the finish line. I struggled to keep with Matt Neal, especially on the first set of tyres. The second set of tyres were much better and I tried to catch him, but ultimately his engine failure played into my hands."

Yvan Muller:
"It was a good win for Jimmy and VX Racing today. I'm happy with second place. I think it was the best that I could do with the extra weight that were carrying. I was struggling to keep up with him (Jimmy), but I just had to try and hang on as much as I could. "

Paul O'Neill:
"We're not sure what our problem was out there today. We need to find out whether it's the car, the handling or an engine problem. Everyone was just going past me on the straights, I just couldn't hold anyone off, everyone was hitting me and getting me out of the way. I just had to bring it home, so seventh's not too bad, all things considered. The team will work on the car before the next race, so we'll be hoping to bounce back this afternoon."

Mike Nicholson:
"I think today's race proved just how important it is to have good reliability. We had our problems last year and have worked hard over the winter to resolve these. Today's result was one that VX Racing can justifiably be proud of, as to use an old adage, 'To win, first you have to finish'. However we're certainly not complacent, as we know the competition will also be working to improve their reliability

Mike Nicholson comments on the BTCC rule changes allowing ETCC manufacturer entry into the 2004 championship:
"We're extremely supportive of the new regulations set to be introduced next year and hope that it will bring three or four new manufacturers into the Series. This, in turn, should return the series to the great years of the 90's with full grids of highly competitive cars keenly contesting the Championship in front of big crowds.

"It's good to have Alan Gow back in the saddle, with all the energy and experience that he brings to the BTCC. The future looks good and we look forward to the Series going on to unprecedented heights.

Race Classification
1. James Thompson Vauxhall Racing 38mins 15.108 secs
2. Yvan Muller Vauxhall Racing 38mins 17.033 secs
3. Colin Turkington MG Racing 38mins 24.559 secs
7. Paul O'Neill Vauxhall Racing 38mins 44.486 secs

Race 2

The all-VX Racing front row of James Thompson and Yvan Muller set the pace in the second race and it was Yvan Muller having a good start that took the lead. Paul O'Neill also stormed off the line, moving up to fourth place by the end of lap 1. The VX Racing Astra Coupe's of Muller and Thompson were challenged hard by Matt Neal, Honda Racing, but after 9 laps suffered mechanical failure and retired from the race. Paul O'Neill was fighting hard for third place, which was hampered early in the race by a lunging move by Alan Morrison, MG Racing, which put O'Neill back to eighth. Further problems ensued for O'Neill with a race incident putting O'Neill off line and back further down the order to thirteenth place.

The VX Racing crews demonstrated their slick pit stop work for all three drivers, taking only 4".5 seconds to put new tyres on the Vauxhall Astra Coupe's. After the field had completed the round of pit stops VX Racing lined up 1st with Muller, 2nd with Thompson and O'Neill recovering to take fifth place. The drivers held position over the course of the remaining laps to keep their lead in the manufacturers, team and drivers Championships.

Yvan Muller:
"I'm happy with my race this afternoon. We changed the setup from this morning and it really improved the balance of the car. In the practice sessions I wasn't really comfortable with the setups, but now the car is very, very good. It may have looked an easy win, but you know it's never easy. There's so many things that can happen, especially with the weather which was very changeable today."

James Thompson:
"It was a bit of a lonely race really. My first set of tyres weren't very good, but the second set were much better, so I was pleased with the second half of the race. The first half - I couldn't get it over fast enough, the second half was good. It's a little bit disappointing - I would have liked to have given Yvan a bit more of a harder time."

Paul O'Neill:
"I had a good start and was having a close, hard battle out there this afternoon but the next minute there was a Honda flying past into the gravel. I recovered from that, but had lost a few places which I was trying to make up, when I found myself being spun round and then T-boned. That really put me back down the order and I had to try and retrieve the situation. The VX Racing pit stop crew gave me an awesome stop which gained me some extra places. All in all, a fifth isn't bad, but I could possibly have been a little bit higher up the order without the racing incidents."

Mike Nicholson:
"It was another good result for VX Racing this afternoon. Yvan had really got the car hooked up and James was there behind him all the way. Paul had a busy race, so a fifth place finish was a fair result for him too. Overall, we've notched up seven wins out of eight races, so we're riding high, but Honda and MG are both right up there too and we know we have to work hard every weekend, every race, to stay up front. The VX Racing team are certainly on top form."

Race Classification
1. Yvan Muller Vauxhall Racing 38 mins 03.211 secs
2. James Thompson Vauxhall Racing 38 mins 05.835 secs
3. Warren Hughes MG Racing 38 mins 10.004 secs
5. Paul O'Neill Vauxhall Racing 38 mins 22.405 secs

Drivers Championship
1. Yvan Muller Vauxhall Racing 116 points
2. James Thompson Vauxhall Racing 96 points
3. Paul O'Neill Vauxhall Racing 61 points

Manufacturers Championship
1. Vauxhall 255 points
2. Honda 108 points
3. MG 83 points
4. Proton 22 points

Teams Championship
1. Vauxhall Racing 207 points
2. Honda Racing 105 points
3. MG Sport & Racing 80 points

-vxr-

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