BTCC: Croft Vauxhall race notes

More than 16,000 fans were present at Yorkshire's Croft Circuit this weekend to witness local touring car star, James Thompson, reclaim the British Touring Car Championship lead. The 28-year-old Vauxhall Motorsport driver shared the winner's...

More than 16,000 fans were present at Yorkshire's Croft Circuit this weekend to witness local touring car star, James Thompson, reclaim the British Touring Car Championship lead. The 28-year-old Vauxhall Motorsport driver shared the winner's spoils with French teammate, Yvan Muller, with Thompson winning the 19-lap Sprint race from pole position and Muller the 25-lap Feature race. Former championship leader, Matt Neal, suffered a torrid weekend with two non-finishes seeing him reluctantly relinquishing the lead. And although third placed Muller still lies twenty points behind the new leader, he has in fact narrowed the gap down to second place with just three points separating him from Neal.

Following the action-packed Rounds 11 & 12 at a hot and sunny Croft, Vauxhall now stretches out its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship with 289 points to MG's 182, Honda's 121 and Proton's 111. Vauxhall Motorsport also leads the Teams' Championship with 112 points to Egg Sport's 76 and MG Sport & Racing's 60.

Thompson may have come out on top after the weekend but it wasn't all plain sailing. Having missed out on much of the Saturday morning practice sessions with problems with his championship standard gearbox, he had it all to do in the qualifying sessions. The pressure was on but a stunning double pole meant he had the advantage for Sunday's two races. It was an advantage he fully capitalised on in the extended 19-lap Sprint Race.

Beating Muller to the first corner, Thompson and Muller proceeded to dominate the Sprint race with the pair pushing each other to the limits with only the deployment of the Safety Car interrupting their private battle. With action resuming shortly after, it looked like a certain Vauxhall 1-2. Unfortunately for Muller however, misfortune stepped in once again this season with the Frenchman picking up a puncture, ending his race after 17 of the 19 laps. Thompson claimed the win and a point for fastest lap with Proton's David Leslie following him across the line in second and MG's Colin Turkington in third. Egg Sport's Matt Neal and Paul O'Neill meanwhile had a race best forgotten. O'Neill's Astra had a fiery ending to its race after ripping off the sump early on in the race whilst Neal came to a halt with just two laps remaining.

The 25-lap Feature race however saw a turn in fortunes for the Vauxhall Motorsport pair. After a thrilling dash to the first corner with Thompson just edging out Muller, the Frenchman pulled off a fantastic overtaking manoeuvre to take the lead. Once again, a Vauxhall Motorsport 1-2 looked on the cards only this time it was Thompson's turn for disappointment. An engine misfire after just 7 laps put paid to his hopes of extending his newly reclaimed championship lead. Muller wasn't going to turn a points scoring opportunity down though, and after a thrilling battle with Andy Priaulx in the Honda which saw the pair racing literally nose to bumper, he took the chequered flag in a well-deserved first place. The on-form Priaulx took second in his Honda with MG's Anthony Reid in third. O'Neill made up for his first race disappointment with a solid sixth place finish.

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Series BTCC
Drivers Anthony Reid , Yvan Muller , Paul O'Neill , David Leslie , James Thompson , Matt Neal