BTCC: Vauxhall Silverstone race report

<pre> www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship Rounds 7/8 -Silverstone, June 1/2 Race Day -- Saturday, June 2 </pre> A double success at Silverstone on Saturday put Vauxhall Motorsport's Jason Plato back in the frame for...

<pre> www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship Rounds 7/8 -Silverstone, June 1/2 Race Day -- Saturday, June 2 </pre>

A double success at Silverstone on Saturday put Vauxhall Motorsport's Jason Plato back in the frame for this year's British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) title. At the wheel of his Astra Coupe, the Oxford driver closed the gap to his championship leading team-mate, Frenchman Yvan Muller, to lift himself from third in the points tables to second, just nine points behind.

Plato converted his front row start to take his first night race win of the season in the 15-lap Sprint Race. Although Muller got a clean start, ballast proved a decisive factor in their battle with Plato consistently hassling the Frenchman before finally taking him at Priory on lap 3. Plato then held his lead whilst working his way up through the Production class field in this handicap race, finally taking the chequered flag ahead of Muller, who had decided to settle for points.

Meanwhile, Egg Sport Astra Coupe drivers, James Thompson and Phil Bennett, were fighting it out between themselves. West Midlands' Bennett punting Yorkshire's Thompson onto the grass a couple of times, but Thompson's experience got the better of him and after setting fastest lap, crossed the finishing line in third place ahead of Bennett who had found himself caught up whilst lapping slower cars.

The 30-lap Feature race, held in darkness, gave Plato his second outright race victory of the season after another front row start. Pole sitter Muller and Plato slugged it out over the opening laps of the wet race, with Plato moving into a slender lead, only for the Oxford driver to struggle with a badly smeared windscreen and slide wide onto the grass in the 12th lap. A fast pit stop by his Triple Eight Race Engineering team mechanics put him back in contention, then a race victory was in his sights after Muller was delayed for more than half a minute during his own pit stop with an air jack problem for his Astra Coupe.

Thompson suffered when he was punted off at the first corner, but recovered to fight his way back to fourth place at the finish, while Bennett benefited from both his Egg Sport team-mates misfortunes and from Muller's pit stop problem, to bring his Vauxhall Astra Coupe home in second place, the highest finish yet for the BTCC newcomer.

Jason Plato, Car 5, Vauxhall Astra Coupe Qualifying: Sprint - 2nd - 1m28.443, Feature - 2nd - 1m28.508 Races: Sprint -- Winner, Feature -- Winner

"I had a really good scrap with Yvan (Muller) in the Sprint Race, I knew my Astra Coupe was quicker than his through the corners that mattered which meant I could put pressure on him and I really wanted to win here. I was definitely stronger at Priory and after three warnings managed to make it stick - I probably had the advantage of less ballast but it was good to give the team a win as they had been working late last night working on the car. It was good fun. I made a great start in the Feature race and made a move on Yvan ahead of me, although I got a whack from him and nearly went off. I outbraked myself at Copse and I think it was payback time for passing Yvan earlier. He decided he was coming through and I wasn't just going to close the door on him. He was quicker in the opening laps, he had more grip but I think he ate his tyres at a higher rate than I did. It was all set for a cracking race and then I made my mistake. If you are not aggressive with the gearbox you can sometimes find neutral and that's what I did and it sent me off at Abbey. Shame Yvan had his problems in the pits, it spoilt what could have been a great race. I am going to enjoy a bit of luck though, its been a long time coming and a win is a win."

Yvan Muller, Car 4, Vauxhall Astra Coupe Qualifying: Sprint - Pole - 1m28.388, Feature - Pole - 1m28.483 Races: Sprint -- 2nd, Feature -- 3rd - Fastest Lap: 1:40.498

"I had a good fight with Jason (Plato) in the Sprint Race. I was surprised to be on pole with the 60kgs success ballast and although I did try to block the door, I knew Jason was quicker. I have struggled with understeer all day despite making changes to the set-up and although I did try to push from behind, when I saw the Egg Sport Vauxhall's catching up, I knew it was better to keep second and the points. I did not win the Sprint because I was not quick enough, but in the Feature race I was the quickest and still could not win - very frustrating, but that's motor racing sometimes."

James Thompson, Car 9, Vauxhall Astra Coupe Qualifying: Sprint - 3rd - 1m28.917, Feature - 4th - 1m28.822 Races: Sprint - 3rd - Fastest Lap: 1:28.507, Feature - 4th

"Phil (Bennett) put me on the grass a couple of times in the Sprint Race which wasn't very gentlemanly of him! I might have knocked the front left end a bit in my battle with Phil and it felt a woolly afterwards but the Astra Coupe felt a lot better in the race - the team worked really hard after qualifying to give me extra pace. The success weight was quite frustrating as Phil was catching me running down the straights which made it a bit cat and mouse! In the Feature race I got hit hard from behind by Steve Soper, he did apologise later, but t put me well into the gravel. I rejoined but it all wasn't very good really and at least I finished fourth and didn't get a non-finish which is the main thing."

Phil Bennett, Car 27, Vauxhall Astra Coupe Qualifying:  Sprint - 4th -
1m29.086, Feature - 3rd - 1m28.758 Races:  Sprint - 4th, Feature - 2nd

"It was a great and enjoyable Sprint Race - you expect a bit of rubbing in touring car racing, it's part of the game! The Astra Coupe was great again and the only problem was overtaking the Production cars. They did cause me to lose some time but to be honest, it isn't a problem for the Astra. The Feature race was a first for me, racing in he wet in the Astra at night as well. I was doing OK then a mistake at Becketts meant I lost touch with Jason, so I decided to settle down and just get on with it I kept the gap back to Yvan at the end and look, I'm on the podium again!"

<pre> www.theAA.com MSA British Touring Car Championship Rounds 7&8 - Silverstone, June 1/2

Sprint Race (15 laps): 1 Simon Harrison Peugeot 306 23:23.813 2 Roger Moen (NOR) Peugeot 306 23:24.879 3 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23:32.779 (BTCT) 4 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23:34.632 (BTCT) 5 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23:36.502 (BTCT) 6 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupe 23:36.742 (BTCT) 7 Paul O'Neill Peugeot 306 23:47.669 8 Mat Jackson Ford Focus 23:47.939 9 James Kaye Honda Accord 23:48.734 10 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 23:49.156 (BTCT)

Feature Race (30 laps): 1 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 51:33.094 2 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupe 51:44.880 3 Yvan Mller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 52:03.439 4 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 52:25.277 5 Kurt Luby Lexus IS200 52:57.439 6 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupe 53:02.170 7 David Pinkney Alfa Romeo 147 53:10.415 8 Roger Moen (N) Peugeot 306 53:10.611 (BTCP) 9 James Kaye Honda Accord 53:11.559 (BTCP) 10 Simon Harrison Peugeot 306 53:18.170 (BTCP)

Drivers' Championship (after 8 Rds): 1 Yvan Muller (F) Vauxhall Astra Coupe 108 points 2 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Coupe 99 3 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 89 4 Phil Bennett Vauxhall Astra Coupe 66 5 Steve Soper Peugeot 406 Coupe 29 6 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 27 Kurt Luby Lexus IS200 27

Manufacturers' Championship (after 8 Rds): 1 Vauxhall 276 points 2 Peugeot 87

Teams Championship (after 8 Rds): 1 Vauxhall Motorsport 79 points 2 Egg Sport 75 3 ABG 20

-Vauxhall

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