All change at the top - but it's still a Vauxhall! Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller and Egg Sport Astra Coupe driver Matt Neal shared the victor's spoils today at Mondello Park for Rounds 9 & 10 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car ...
All change at the top - but it's still a Vauxhall!
Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller and Egg Sport Astra Coupe driver Matt Neal shared the victor's spoils today at Mondello Park for Rounds 9 & 10 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship giving Ireland's motorsport fans a thrilling show for the second year running.
And whilst Muller's Feature Race victory, his third win of the season, boosted the Frenchman's points tally to keep his overall third place in the driver's standings, Neal's Sprint race win and third place podium for the Feature gives the Birmingham driver the overall championship lead - but only just! A single point lies between the Egg Sport driver and Vauxhall Motorsport's James Thompson whose two, second place podiums today would have maintained his championship lead by four points had he not had to drop five due to his being over the engine quota.
There's no change in the Manufacturers' and Teams' Championships however, with Vauxhall extending its manufacturers' lead with 259 points to MG's 144, Honda's 96 and Proton's 84. Vauxhall Motorsport heads the Teams' standings with 85 points to Egg Sport's 65 and MG Sport & Racing's 46.
It was a cruel twist of fate that robbed Yvan Muller yet again of a certain Sprint race win. The Mondello Maestro, Muller took full advantage of his pole position and dominated the race whilst the rest of the field battled it out behind him. But, just as victory was in sight, his engine cut on lap nine and he slowed to a halt dashing the Frenchman's chances and giving the race lead to Egg Sport's Matt Neal.
Two safety car periods later, it was Neal leading with Thompson in second and the Atomic Kitten MG of Gareth Howell in third. With just three laps to run, Neal and Thompson held position whilst Howell lost out to the Proton of David Leslie. So as they crossed the line, it was a Vauxhall 1-2 with Proton in third.
The extended 30-lap Feature Race was full of thrilling racing action however and Muller was at last able to exact revenge. For the second race weekend running, last minute tyre changes on the grid proved crucial and with Muller down in 12th, he took the safe option to change to wets as the rain began to fall. Thompson on pole however, initially stuck to slicks but changed his mind after the first warm up lap and came into the pits for wets, consequently starting the race from the back. It was the right decision though with the Yorkshireman steadily climbing his way up through the field.
Muller meanwhile had his hands full with Reid at the front of the field and as the pair diced for the lead, Muller knew it was a case of push him off or wait to pounce in the pits during the compulsory pitstops! Choosing the latter option, Muller's Triple Eight pit crew pulled off an incredibly slick change giving the Frenchman the advantage he had hoped for over Reid. It was a turn-around point in the race and with Thompson in second by the time pitstops had finished, it was Neal's turn to battle with Reid. It was no easy task for the Birmingham driver and it wasn't until the very final lap that he managed to dive past to give Vauxhall its second 1-2-3 of the season. It also gave him the crucial points necessary to overhaul Thompson in the points standings.
Sprint - DNF, FL: 1:46.683, Feature - Winner, FL: 1:46.607, 1:02:39.376 (Re: Sprint) "Until you pass the chequered flag, it isn't a win." (Re: Feature) "It seems my luck has turned! I hope for the rest of the season. Before the race, I had a mixed set-up on my Astra for both wet and dry conditions and that worked well. I was so close to leaving the slicks on when we were on the grid but I knew the pitstop window started at 5 laps so we could change then. It's very difficult to overtake here and with Reid, it was either push him out or take him in the pitstop! I chose the opportunity to take him in the pits!"
James Thompson, Car 3, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
2Sprint - 2nd, 41:51.450, Feature - 2nd, 1:02:40.342 (Re: Sprint) "I let Matt through and then the Safety Car came out! I didn't want to buzz the engine because I was having trouble with my gears but maybe if I'd been defensive I could have held him off. But I wasn't to know it would come out. I'll be known as a gentleman racer now!" (Re: Feature) "Fantastic! I've not won a race but to come away with two seconds is a successful weekend. There was a bit of indecision about tyres and I didn't want to lose out two race weekends running. Changing to wets was the right thing to do though - when you're on pole you have to take the safe option. The Triple Eight guys also did a fantastic job on the pitstops and overall it was great weekend"
OTHER VAUXHALL NEWS
Matt Neal, Car 0, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - Winner, 41:50.927, Feature - 4th, 1:02:45.454
Paul O'Neill, Car 29, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 4th, 41:57.683, Feature - 5th, 1:02:45.773
<pre> Drivers' Championship (After 10 Rds) 1 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupe 101 points 2 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupe 100 3 Yvan Muller Vauxhall Astra Coupe 81 4 Anthony Reid MG ZS 64 5 Paul O'Neill Vauxhall Astra Coupe 59 6 Warren Hughes MG ZS 49 7 Andy Priaulx Honda Civic Type R 45 8 David Leslie Proton Impian 39 9 Tim Harvey Peugeot 406 Coupe 35 10 Dan Eaves Peugeot 406 Coupe 27
Manufacturers' Championship (After 10 Rds) 1 Vauxhall 259 points 2 MG 144 3 Honda 96 4 Proton 84
Teams' Championship (After 10 Rds) 1 Vauxhall Motorsport 85 points 2 Egg Sport 65 3 MG Sport & Racing 46 4 Team Halfords 33 5 Honda Racing 31 6 Team Petronas 16 7 Team Atomic Kitten 12 8 Barwell Motorsport 10