Thompson maintains BTCC lead. Vauxhall Motorsport's James Thompson took a brace of third place podium positions today at a soaking wet Knockhill circuit to maintain his championship lead after Rounds 15&16 of the Green Flag MSA British...
Thompson maintains BTCC lead.
Vauxhall Motorsport's James Thompson took a brace of third place podium positions today at a soaking wet Knockhill circuit to maintain his championship lead after Rounds 15&16 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship. Teammate, Yvan Muller also had a successful weekend coming away with a Sprint Race fourth place and Feature Race second place podium. The Frenchman now lies in a comfortable second place in the Drivers' standings ahead of Egg Sport's Matt Neal who finally broke his spell of bad luck this weekend taking a welcome Sprint race win from Reid and Thompson. Whilst the Feature race was claimed by Honda's Andy Priaulx, Vauxhall Motorsport's Muller and Thompson took the chequered flag hot on his heels. Egg Sport's Paul O'Neill meanwhile finished a respectable sixth and fifth to regain sixth place overall in the standings.
In fact it was a dominant performance all round from the Vauxhall Astra Coupes with a Vauxhall first, third and fourth in the extended 29-lap Sprint race and second, third and fourth in the 40-lap Feature. Vauxhall's impressive haul of points has put the Luton marque firmly in the lead of the Manufacturers' title. They now head to the penultimate round of the championship at Brands Hatch in two weeks time with 409 points to MG's 236, Honda's 164 and Proton's 118.
True to Knockhill form, the heavens opened just as the touring car grid lined up for the first touring car race of the day and it didn't stop for the remainder of the afternoon. With conditions worsening by the second, it proved a chaotic start with second placed Thompson dropping to fifth by the end of the first lap but eighth placed Muller climbing to sixth and third placed Neal gaining a place to move up to second behind pole man, Andy Priaulx. Unfortunately for Priaulx however, the Proton of Phil Bennett had diced with Aaron Slight's Barwell Astra Coupe and, with Bennett lodged in the gravel trap at the hairpin, the Safety Car was brought out at the start of lap three, closing the field up.
Five laps later and the now 29-lap extended Sprint race got underway with the Vauxhall pack hounding the front runners of Priaulx, Morrison and Reid. Neal had lost his second place temporarily but soon found his rhythm to consistently set fastest lap times. Thompson and Muller meanwhile had also settled in the groove of the race with Thompson climbing back up to third by lap nine and Muller up to fifth by lap 18. But it was the EggSport Astra Coupe driver, Neal who stormed to glory first picking off Thompson at the hairpin, before then passing Reid and Priaulx at the same place on consecutive laps. Priaulx lost his rhythm and the Honda man dropped down several places. With Neal leading, Reid in second and Thompson in third, all that remained was for fifth placed Muller to move to fourth when Morrison ran wide on the final lap. The Astra Coupe first, third and fourth produced a handsome haul of points for Vauxhall, boosting its total in the Manufacturers' standings.
With conditions progressively getting worse, the first five laps of the 40-lap main Feature race started under the Safety Car with pitstops starting almost immediately following the green flag. Neal and Thompson came in first so as the field crossed the line signalling the end of the first racing lap, it was pole man, Priaulx followed by Reid, Slight, O'Neill, Muller and Thompson. Muller and Thompson both had good stops but not good enough to catch race leader, Priaulx once the field had settled and the pair inherited second and third places respectively.
Egg Sport Astra Coupe drivers, Neal and O'Neill meanwhile were battling their way up through the field in tandem. And after trailing Reid for several laps, they both dived past to claim fourth and fifth. So, whilst the win went to Priaulx, it was another Astra Coupe formation finish with Vauxhall Motorsport's Muller and Thompson and Egg Sport's Neal and O'Neill claiming the remaining top positions. Ends
Vauxhall Motorsport Quotes:
Yvan Muller, Car 2, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - 4th, Feature - 2nd, FL: 1:01.823
(Re: Sprint) "I'm happy with fourth for the Sprint as I was carrying a lot of success ballast and wasn't really very happy with the balance of the car, so yes, fourth is acceptable."
(Re:Feature) "The balance of my Astra was much better for the second race and to finish second is great especially as I started from eighth. I don't know why I lost so much time in the pitstop because it was a good stop but I managed to catch up again. Given that the conditions were awful, I really enjoyed that race! And I finished in front of Jimmy so, a good day overall."
James Thompson, Car 3, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - 3rd, Feature - 3rd
(Re: Sprint) "I'm very happy with that result. My grid position made all the difference and gave me the opportunity to take a good result. And I wasn't too worried about my bad start. Given the weather conditions, I decided to just sit back and let the race come to me."
(Re: Feature) "The weather was absolutely horrendous and anything could have happened out there today but I managed to get through the weekend which I'm pleased about. It would have been so easy to make a mistake. I'm a bit disappointed not to have built on my championship lead but at least I haven't lost too much. There are only a few races now until the end of the season and there's everything to play for."
OTHER VAUXHALL NEWS
Matt Neal, Car 0, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - Winner, FL: 1m00.743s, Feature - 4th
(Re: Sprint) "After four non-finishes, that felt good! I was quite surprised to be able to pick off the front-runners one-by-one at the hairpin. I'd been watching Andy Priaulx breaking incredibly early through there lap after lap so went for it. And the Astra really was awesome - I had great traction out of the corners. It was a good result for Vauxhall in the Manufacturers' title race and a great way to start the day."
(Re: Feature) "A nice result for Egg that was as it has put us back up to second in the Teams' Championship. The Astra felt great again too as we'd changed from a damp to a wet set-up between races. It was so much of a lottery though - almost a question of how brave you could be breaking for the corners. The important thing now is that I won't be carrying too much weight for Brands Hatch."
Paul O'Neill, Car 29, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 6th, Feature - 5th
(Re: Sprint) " I don't feel I made any stupid mistakes and that's what counts today, I want people to see I can do a good job. And I got a good start too but I don't think Jimmy (Thompson) saw me. When he went wide at Clark, I understeered and we touched. So I lifted and Yvan came through. After that, there was really nowhere to pass him without doing something massively stupid. I needed to finish that race though, so I'm really pleased."
(Re: Feature) ""That was hard work. You know I didn't realise I was in the lead at one stage! Near the end of the race I was having a good old battle with Matt and when I saw him get past Reid, I thought, right, this one's for the boys and went for it too! Very pleased with fifth - a good result."