Friday 4 June 2004-- VX Racing heads to Mondello Park in Ireland for rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship, with team mates James Thompson and Yvan Muller level on points in the drivers'...
Friday 4 June 2004-- VX Racing heads to Mondello Park in Ireland for rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship, with team mates James Thompson and Yvan Muller level on points in the drivers' championship.
Mondello Park staged the first BTCC race weekend of the year in 2003, and VX Racing secured an impressive one-two in both races. Thompson took the victory spoils that day, with Muller shadowing him for two second place finishes. This year Mondello plays host to the fifth race weekend of the season, and as VX Racing heads to the Emerald Isle Muller and Thompson, in the sister Vauxhall Astra Coupes are preparing to battle for points.
Muller goes to Mondello on the crest of success, after taking two victories in three races at Oulton Park. "Oulton was a good weekend for me," comments the charismatic Frenchman, "At first we struggled with the set-up because I was running without ballast, but we got the results and that's what counts. I will have the penalty of success ballast at Mondello, but the team and the car cope very well with the handicap. It does affect the car's performance, but hopefully will not be too much of a problem. James' car will be slightly lighter than mine, so I expect him to be quick in qualifying. I will just be trying to score as many points as I can -- there is still a long way to go in the championship and a lot can happen."
Not only will Muller be battling with his English team mates on track, he will be experiencing some intense rivalry when the VX Racing team gather around the television after the races to watch England play France in Euro 2004. Muller and his French engine engineer, Raphael Callie, will be supporting France, but the rest of the team, including Thompson and Hines, will be cheering hard for England.
Thompson's lighter car gives him a small on-track advantage over his team mate and closest rival Muller, but the Yorkshireman remains cautious. "You can't relax when Yvan is around, he will take any opportunity he can, but it's not just him you have to watch! There has been something like seven different race winners so far this season and so you can't rest on your laurels. We just have to keep pushing and take as many points as we can from each round. Mondello was great for me last year, I just hope I can repeat the performance."
VX Racing young gun, Luke Hines is making steady progress in the third Vauxhall Astra Coupe, "I was a bit disappointed after Oulton," says Hines, "I qualified well, but couldn't capitalise and get the results I wanted. So far this season I have been a bit unlucky with some racing incidents and have come off worst, but I am determined to keep on it. Mondello has not been a lucky circuit for me in the past, but I'm going to work hard, shake off the bad luck and hopefully get the results. "
VX Racing currently tops the team, manufacturers' and drivers' championships and is looking to extend its lead at Mondello Park.
* Last year at Mondello Park-- With a high rate of attrition in both races, James Thompson emerged on top after two wins, Yvan Muller scored two second places, to secure a Vauxhall one-two in both races
* So far, Luke has completed approximately 3,217 miles in his Vauxhall Astra Coupe -- 2,400 miles in winter testing, 430 miles in testing, practice and qualifying and 387 miles racing
* So far this year, Yvan is the only BTCC driver to secure two race wins in one weekend, with his victories in rounds 10 and 12 at Oulton Park
* Yvan and James are currently level in the drivers championship with 124 points, both drivers having won three races
* Luke is predicting a one-all draw when England play France in the football, and will be cheering on his favourite player Wayne Rooney The VX Racing Guide to Mondello Park
"Mondello is totally different, it's one of a kind. I think it rains most of the time, so I'd say the key to winning is to be really good in the rain -- a rain master. There is not much run off around the circuit, so you know that if you do have an off you are probably going to hit a wall or a bank. I've had bad luck there in the past, but this time I'm going to make sure I get it right.
"Mondello is close to Dublin, so there is always something going on. There are lots of clubs and bars to choose from."
--Luke Hines, VX Racing, No.57 Vauxhall Astra Coupe