STRONG SHOWING FROM VX RACING AT KNOCKHILL
This Sunday's rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2008 HiQ British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Knockhill, Scotland, saw VX Racing claim four podium finishes and increase their lead in the Teams' Championship to 171 points.
Leading the standings from rivals SEAT, VX Racing have now provisionally clinched their first title for 2008, with drivers collecting a pair of second and third places finishes throughout the day.
Saturday's qualifying saw Tom Onslow-Cole claim the fourth fastest time (53.441 secs). With 18 kg of success ballast on board, Matt Neal followed closely with a fifth best time of 53.474 secs, whilst reigning BTCC Driver's Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi posted seventh fastest (53.477 secs) despite carrying maximum ballast of 45 kg.
A previous penalty for Tom Chilton meant all three VX Racing drivers were promoted by one place for today's first race. Pole position was secured by SEAT's Darren Turner with a time of 53.163 secs.
Race one saw Giovanardi claim second place with team-mate Onslow-Cole finishing the race in third.
Starting in sixth position, Giovanardi was up to fourth place as the first safety car was deployed, with Neal running in fourth and Onslow-Cole in second. The restart saw Neal pit with a tyre puncture, demoting him to 18th place.
A second safety car period closed the field once more and enabled Giovanardi to reach third place, which was soon converted to second position when the Italian passed Onslow-Cole.
Neal finished the race in 16th place and it was SEAT's Jason Plato that took the win for round 22.
VX Racing claimed two further podium finishes for round 23 with Giovanardi securing second place, ahead of team Onslow-Cole who finished third.
Starting from second on the grid, a solid first lap ensured Giovanardi kept his position and stayed close to the front-running SEAT of Plato for the entire 24-lap race.
Running third, Onslow-Cole defended his place successfully from Matt Jackson's BMW at the start of the race, and maintained his position for the remainder of round 23.
Neal drove a solid race to tenth place, the final point-scoring position, despite starting from 16th on the grid. Plato clinched the win for SEAT.
Race three saw VX Racing drivers Giovanardi and Neal collect more points with a fifth and seventh place finish respectively.
Neal enjoyed a superb start to round 24, climbing from tenth to fifth place by lap five. An incident in the later stages of the race saw him demoted to seventh place however, which he maintained until the finish.
Having started eighth on the grid, Giovanardi raced unscathed to the chequered flag, despite numerous incidents occurring throughout the field. The reigning Drivers' champion completed the race in sixth place, whilst team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole finished 12th. SEAT's Turner claimed the win for round 24.
Reigning Teams' champions VX Racing now lead the standings with 453 points.
Fabrizio Giovanardi #1
"In race one, I felt the tyres getting better and better with each passing lap. At the start I drove carefully to avoid trouble as this is quite a tricky circuit and incidents were likely to happen. After that, it was a case of making progress steadily and finish as high up as possible.
"Both Jason and I got good starts for the second race and matched each other's speeds throughout the race. That meant that there was no chance to overtake him without taking a serious risk.
"For the last round, I focused on driving cleverly. With so much going on during the race, I didn't want to get into a fight! We scored points in each race today and that is what matters. It was important not to get involved in any of the on-track battles and concentrate on the championships."
Matt Neal #4
"It's been an eventful weekend for me! When you are at the back like I was in the first two races, you have to fight your way through as you are right in the thick of most battles. It's been a tough weekend as the racing is so tight here.
"I just missed on the reverse grid for race three but managed to make up quite a few places in the earlier part of the race. The car felt absolutely fantastic, I could have been on the podium with it but unfortunately it wasn't to be. We got a good tally of points between all three of us though which is the main thing."
Tom Onslow-Cole #10
"Race one was good; a solid finish. I had a really good start of the line and immediately focus on passing Jason. That wasn't possible in the end but I scored a significant amount of points which is important.
"Race two was fairly quiet for me actually. I had a busy start as I didn't have the best line off the grid and a BMW nearly got me but I kept my position. Unfortunately both Fabrizio and Jason edged slightly away from me after that.
"The last race was busy to say the least! I had hoped to be on the podium again or at least to score a good amount of points but it didn't happen."