Yvan Muller won a dramatic opening round at Oulton Park's 2.226-mile Island circuit on Sunday. The VX Racing driver edged his Vauxhall Astra Coupe ahead of team-mate and championship rival James Thompson on the run up to the first corner and was...
Yvan Muller won a dramatic opening round at Oulton Park's 2.226-mile Island circuit on Sunday. The VX Racing driver edged his Vauxhall Astra Coupe ahead of team-mate and championship rival James Thompson on the run up to the first corner and was never headed for the rest of the race. Matt Neal recovered from a poor start to take third place in his Computeach Racing with Halfords Honda Civic Type-R.
Thompson started in pole position as a result of his win in the previous round at Silverstone circuit two weeks ago, with Muller and Neal lining up behind him in second and third respectively. Thompson made a slow getaway, with Neal making an even slower one, and this comfortably handed the lead to Muller with Turkington, who started fourth, slotting in behind in second.
Thompson responded straight away and dived inside Turkington at Cascades, the second corner on the circuit and a tight but fast left-hander, to move up to second place. Neal, immediately behind them, was forced to aggressively defend his fifth place from Reid who tried to pass on the inside. Further down the field SEAT Sport UK driver Robert Huff tried to go down the inside of Team Sureterm's Carl Breeze at Cascades but the two cars touched and Breeze was nudged into a light spin.
The Vauxhall pair built a small lead over Turkington who was being hounded by Collard Racing driver Rob Collard and Neal, who were putting each other under immense pressure and looking for opportunities to pass all round the circuit. Reid and Huff, running behind Neal, were fighting hard too.
On the second lap Richard Marsh spun off the circuit at Cascades and pulled off into retirement a few hundred metres later. Shaun Watson-Smith also retired from the race down at Island, the hairpin at the end of the back straight, with a huge cloud of smoke pouring from his Proton Impian.
Neal got past Collard on lap four and then pulled alongside Turkington on the long run down to the hairpin on lap six and neatly past up into third place. To further compound West Surrey Racing's misery Reid was passed by VX Racing's Luke Hines and Huff on lap on lap five, dropping back to eighth and into the clutches of Synchro Motorsport driver James Kaye. Hines was now all over the back of Huff and the pair ran nose-to-tail.
Reid and Kaye were fighting hard and this allowed the trio of Charlie Butler-Henderson (Team Sureterm), Jason Plato (SEAT Sport UK) and Dan Eaves (Computeach Racing with Halfords) to close right up and form a five-way battle. There was almost an accident on lap seven when Butler-Henderson lost control under braking for the chicane, ran wide and then nearly collected Eaves on the exit of the corner. The confusion forced Carl Breeze, who immediately behind them, to swerve and then spin off into the gravel at Knickerbrook, a fast right-hander at the base of Clay Hill.
Kay pulled alongside Reid on the approach to the chicane on lap nine and successfully past the MG. Plato and Eaves tried to take advantage of the MG driver's loss of momentum and the pair forced Reid to defend hard. This was to no avail as the pair both passed Reid later in the lap and left him now defending his place from VXR Junior driver Michael Bentwood, who tried unsuccessfully to pass around the outside at the chicane.
Luke Hines tried an optimistic overtaking move on lap ten down the inside of Huff at the chicane. Hines braked late from a long way behind and turned in, but clipped the back of Huff's car and forced him into a spin. Huff rejoined the circuit and continued but Hines pulled off into retirement with a broken wheel.
Muller and Thompson meanwhile were matching each other's times lap-for-lap as they ran under one second apart and three seconds ahead of third-placed Neal. They crossed the line in this order with Muller closing the gap to Thompson in the championship to just two points, thirty-three points ahead of Reid who finished down in tenth place.