A Podium Finish For Each of The VX Racing Drivers at Mondello Park Sunday 13 June 2004--/All three of the VX Racing drivers scored a podium finish in a punishing weekend at Mondello Park. The fifth race weekend of the year marks the mid-point...
A Podium Finish For Each of The VX Racing Drivers at Mondello Park
Sunday 13 June 2004--/All three of the VX Racing drivers scored a podium finish in a punishing weekend at Mondello Park. The fifth race weekend of the year marks the mid-point of the 2004 Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship and VX Racing leaves Ireland leading the team, manufacturers' and drivers' championships after some eventful racing in the Emerald Isle.
With Muller on pole position despite carrying maximum success ballast, all eyes were watching as he battled with arch enemy, Anthony Reid, in the run down to the first corner for the first of the three races today. Muller held his position to take the lead for the first lap and despite intense pressure from Reid, led all the way to the chequered flag. As Muller said after the race, "It was very tough and I feel tired because I was 110 percent focused on my drive -- I put all my energy into it."
Meanwhile, Thompson, starting fourth, sustained heavy pressure from Matt Neal, who eventually made his move stick as the pair dived into the first corner for the fifth time, to give Thompson a fifth place finish. Hines left his eighth place grid slot and immediately pushed hard to gain a place. Passing Jason Plato later in the race, the young VX Racing driver claimed sixth place, and slotted in behind Thompson. Thompson and Hines then held position, bringing their Vauxhall Astra Coupes home in fifth and sixth place respectively.
Muller fielded the heaviest car on the grid for the second race of the day, carrying a maximum extra 42 kilos of ballast and starting from tenth place thanks to a win in race one and the resulting reverse grid. Hines began running 9 kilos under weight, with Thompson at base weight.
Despite carrying the extra weight Muller was quick off the line and went straight through the middle of the MG's and round the outside of the first corner. Thompson managed to get in front of team mate Hines, and both gained a place as a result of a collision between other cards in the field. By the end of the first lap, the three Vauxhall Astra Coupes were running in formation behind the lead pack with Thompson fourth, Hines fifth and Muller sixth. All three drove hard to challenge for podium positions, with Thompson securing a third place by the chequered flag. Thompson, said after the champagne spraying, "We've still got some improving to do, but the car was a lot better. To get on the podium in that race and with ballast on board as well is a good result. We have taken a step forward and so hopefully in the next race we can make another improvement."
After a post race appeal by Bentwood, Huff was excluded for his involvement in the collision with Bentwood. This decision resulted in the promotion Thompson to second place, Hines to third and Muller to fourth.
The final race of the day featured plenty of track action for the Irish fans, with Plato leading for the majority of the race and the ensuing pack bumping and bashing each other, resulting in numerous position changes. Muller squeezed past Hines at the start of the race and then set about catching and passing Thompson. The two VX Racing drivers were side by side by lap four and then Reid join the battle to make it a three way skirmish. A storming run from Colin Turkington took him through the field and into second place, as he passed Thompson, Muller also managed to get through. With the cars battered and bruised from the robust driving and several of the field in the gravel, the safety car was deployed.
With a new race distance -- 16 laps instead of the original 14 - the restart saw Turkington make his move for the lead leaving Muller to scrap with Plato for on-track position, but the pair clashed and Muller was demoted to sixth place. Meanwhile VX Racing young gun Hines made it up to second place, with Thompson in his battle-scarred car in fourth position. The three VX Racing drivers managed to hold their positions to the end of a frantic race. Hines, thrilled to be on the podium, explained; "I just kept out of trouble, there were a few hairy moments, but I kept out of it and it all went right. I was hoping the safety car would come out, and it played into my hands. It feels absolutely brilliant to be on the podium!"
Mike Nicholson, VX Racing operations manager, summed up the weekend saying, "Luke has come on a great deal, and this second place is just reward for the hard work he has put in. We have come away with a bag full of additional manufacturers points, which is useful. The racing was just fantastic, that last race was a little bit like stock car racing but we have come away from a weekend where we didn't expect to do particularly well with more points. We could have had even more still, but it was that sort of racing. We're quietly happy with the weekend."