James Thompson landed pole position for the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship race at Oulton Park, giving him an outside hope of retaining the driver's championship title. Team mate, and current championship leader, Yvan Muller...
James Thompson landed pole position for the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship race at Oulton Park, giving him an outside hope of retaining the driver's championship title. Team mate, and current championship leader, Yvan Muller managed to secure fifth position on the grid despite running heavy with success ballast. Paul O'Neill finished in fourth position in his Vauxhall Astra Coupe right behind Honda's Matt Neal, his rival in the battle for third place in the drivers' championship.
With the BTCC moving to the Cheshire circuit for the final round of the season, and the drivers' championship decider VX Racing quickly set the pace. In the two fiercely contested sessions Thompson finished in the top three, while Muller finished seventh and fourth. O'Neill worked on race set-up finishing eighth in the second session and sixth in the first session despite out braking himself at Lodge corner and ending up in the gravel.
The first wet qualifying session since Mondello Park at the beginning of the year saw Thompson go to the head of the time sheets after his first flying lap, and he remained there by consistently beating his own time over the next few laps. Muller was third quickest on his first run, but then made changes to his car during a brief stint in the pits, and despite bettering his own time, could not improve on fifth position. O'Neill was lying in third position early in the session, but dropped to fourth by the end of qualifying, just five hundredths of a second behind Matt Neal, his main rival in the drivers' championship.
"This is my sixth qualifying pole this year, qualifying has been good, it's the start of the races that has been my Achilles heel, the only time I've led into the first corner has been at Donington. Just the same as everyone one else, we had to guess at it today. I spent both sessions this morning on race balance, as we have at every circuit. We only use qualifying set up for qualifying. I'm quite happy with my race pace, all of the times we did this morning, were race trim. I'm sure I've got the pace to win the race, and that's what I've got to do. If I can't win the championship I'd like Yvan to be the one smiling."
"I'm really pleased with fourth as we struggled a bit in the dry. The car handled exceptionally well in the wet and we're well placed to be getting enough points to keep me third in the championship. Since Silverstone, I've qualified in the top five every time. I've got to get past Matt (Neal), but I've got 34 kilos more than him. As it's the last event in the championship I really want to go for it. I want to do as well as I can for both myself and the VX Racing team.
"I was expecting to be on the second row, but I was one tenth off being there. It was a shame, but we made a mistake by putting another set of tyres on, and it just didn't work out. I'm not too pleased but there is nothing more I can do. (On winning the championship) Everybody says that I must win and they are surprised that I am very calm, but you know if I win, I win, and if I lose, I lose. Life will not change for me. I do my job, I do my best. For three years I have fought for the championship, and that's important -- maybe this year I can win too."
"James proved today just what a true competitor he is. He's certainly not giving up without a fight. I reckon all three of our drivers will be out there driving hard whether it be to fight for the championship or for position. As always the VX Racing team will produce exciting racing."