Vauxhall drivers knocking on the door of BTCC success. Just three race weekends remain of the 2002 Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship and the annual pilgrimage to Scotland's 1.3-mile Knockhill circuit this weekend (August 10/11) for...
Vauxhall drivers knocking on the door of BTCC success.
Just three race weekends remain of the 2002 Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship and the annual pilgrimage to Scotland's 1.3-mile Knockhill circuit this weekend (August 10/11) for Rounds 15&16 could not have come at a more crucial time for Vauxhall's Astra Coupé drivers. The drivers', manufacturers' and teams' titles are all still up for grabs in what has been a fiercely contested series so far and with the notoriously tight and demanding track proving somewhat of a bogey circuit for Vauxhall Motorsport's James Thompson and Yvan Muller in the past, they are going to need to be on top of their game this weekend.
Muller took a second place podium in the Sprint race in 2001 only to retire in the Feature with power steering problems. Thompson, on the other hand, took two, third place podiums last season but he too suffered mechanical problems. He will also have memories of his 1995 crash there. However, Knockhill does hold good memories for the Vauxhall team, as it was at the Fife circuit that the Luton marque secured the 2001 Manufacturers' title.
Furthermore, current championship leader, Thompson and his French teammate, Muller will be heading to Scotland on the crest of a wave of successes. The pair dominated the racing at Snetterton recently taking a win and a second place podium. Thompson was able to extend his championship lead to 25 points whilst the Norfolk outing put Muller back in contention for the drivers' title ahead of fellow Astra Coupé driver and title protagonist, Matt Neal who suffered a second weekend of non-finishes. This could however prove a blessing in disguise for the Egg Sport driver as he will line up for qualifying and the first 25-lap Sprint race a full 54kgs and 66kgs lighter than Thompson and Muller respectively. As Thompson knows, this could make all the difference at a circuit where good grid positions are vital.
"Grid positions are massively influential at Knockhill as it's virtually impossible to overtake there," explains Thompson. "You really need a front row start to be in with a chance of a clean race otherwise it can turn into a bit of a demolition derby and you could find yourself having to muscle your way past."
Vauxhall currently leads the Manufacturers' championship with 346 points to MG's 215, Honda's 134 and Proton's 114. The Teams' championship meanwhile is headed by Vauxhall Motorsport which has a 68 point lead over joint second placed teams, Egg Sport and MG Sport & Racing.
Touring car action at Knockhill commences with BTC Touring car free practices on the morning of Saturday, 10 August whilst qualifying takes place that same afternoon at 3.20pm. Sunday's events kick off with Pitlane Walkabout at 11.00am with the 25-lap Sprint Race getting under way at 12.15pm. The 40-lap main Feature Race starts at 3.45pm. Granada Sport's coverage will be shown the following Saturday afternoon on ITV1.