BTCC: VX Racing Brands Hatch race notes

Brands Hatch circuit, 24 August 2003/...Yvan Muller clinched pole position for the first of tomorrow's Brands Hatch BTCC races in the last few seconds of qualifying, eclipsing teammate James Thompson's fastest lap by a mere one-thousandth of a ...

Brands Hatch circuit, 24 August 2003/...Yvan Muller clinched pole position for the first of tomorrow's Brands Hatch BTCC races in the last few seconds of qualifying, eclipsing teammate James Thompson's fastest lap by a mere one-thousandth of a second. As the session neared its conclusion the three VX Racing drivers held the top three spots, but a last run by Warren Hughes in the MG ZS as the session drew to a close put Paul O'Neil down to fourth fastest, to start on the second row of the grid.

The VX Racing drivers headed the time sheets in both practice sessions, with championship leader, Muller, in his No.2 Vauxhall Astra Coupe, setting the pace in the morning with a blistering 49.738 seconds fastest lap. Teammates, James Thompson and Paul O'Neill were hot in his heels posting second and third fastest times, with laps of 49.782 and 49.914 seconds respectively. In the second practice session the order remained the same, with each of the drivers improving their times. Muller posted a lap of 49.597 seconds, Thompson was just 0.017 seconds behind with a time of 49.614 seconds and O'Neill was third fastest with a time of 49.707 seconds.

The afternoon's highly competitive qualifying session saw a hotter track temperature, creating slower lap times overall. Muller posted a 50.029 second lap to take his third pole of the season in his Vauxhall Astra Coupe, with Thompson alongside him on the front row with his 50.030 second lap. O'Neill lines up behind Thompson on the second row with a lap time of 50.077 seconds.

Yvan Muller:

"It was a big effort to get pole today. Between the last practice and qualifying I decided to do a different set up -- something different from my usual set up. In my first run I wasn't very pleased with the car, so I made a change for the second. This wasn't a good lap -I was quick until Surtees, but then I had to overtake two cars. For the third run I didn't change anything, but I knew it would be the last chance to do it. It was hard to get a clear lap and not to make a mistake. I was very tense, which didn't help, but I'm happy to have pole. We haven't run without ballast since the beginning of the season, so it hasn't been easy to get to a comfortable set up."

James Thompson:

"We should have been a lot faster. This morning we ran with a race set up all the way through both practice sessions, while the other guys were in qualifying trim, so I thought realistically we should be on pole. You have to take a bit of a guess when you don't set the car up for qualifying in the practice sessions -- obviously we guessed wrong! We were slower than we should have been, making this mistake has hurt us badly."

Paul O'Neill:

"It's really good to be fourth, although I really wanted to be in the top three. It's so close though, that I'm not really that bothered. We're under 0.05 seconds off pole and I nearly out qualified Yvan on the same ballast - I'm really pleased with that and hopefully we'll do better in the race. You're always a bit disappointed to be pipped at the end, but when you're running against drivers of the experience and calibre of Yvan and James, you've got to accept these things. Tomorrow, I'm looking to collect some points and to get back to third in the championship."

Mike Nicholson:

"Well, you can't get closer than that! It just shows how closely matched our top two drivers are in this championship. They're certainly making sure every session is competitive and exciting, which is great for the fans and I think we'll be in for some great racing tomorrow. The VX Racing drivers are certainly making sure that there's plenty of action, and it's good to see MG and Honda are hot on our heels to fight hard with us."

Qualifying classification
1 Yvan Muller VX Racing 50.029 seconds
2 James Thompson VX Racing 50.030 seconds
3 Warren Hughes MG Racing 50.051 seconds
4 Paul O'Neill VX Racing 50.077 seconds

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