The British Touring Car Championship headed to Oulton Park in north-west England this weekend for rounds three and four of the 2002 championship. Vauxhall drivers Yvan Muller and Matt Neal share first place in the championship (23 points) with...
The British Touring Car Championship headed to Oulton Park in north-west England this weekend for rounds three and four of the 2002 championship.
Vauxhall drivers Yvan Muller and Matt Neal share first place in the championship (23 points) with MG driver Anthony Reid in third place (18 points) and Muller's team-mate James Thompson in fourth (16 points).
Oulton Park, in Cheshire, is one of the top motorsport venues in the UK. The island circuit consists long sweeping corners, a tight hairpin, and also a slow final corner leading onto the pit straight. The range of corners and hills and provides very close and exciting racing.
First qualifying session (for sprint race)
Matt Neal secured the pole position by the smallest of margins, one thousandth of a second.
The Egg Sport driver came under strong pressure from James Thompson as both drivers got down to 1m 27.3s within a few laps, but Neal responded with a near-perfect lap and improved his previous best by 0.05 seconds to set the fastest time and secure the lead of the championship with the point for pole position.
However, to be fair Thompson was running with the maximum success ballast after his Feature Race win at Brands Hatch. Yvan Muller finished a distant third, some half a second behind teammate Thompson's Vauxhall Motorsport Astra, and managed to complete only six laps as he was forced to pit with mechanical problems. However Vauxhall continued their dominatation of the championship by securing the first three places on the grid.
The MG pair of Anthony Reid and Warren Hughes line up fourth and fifth respectively. Both drivers initially struggled in the session but each pushed hard on their final laps. Hughes had missed the first free practice earlier in the day so performed well to finish 0.3 seconds behind his team-mate.
Tim Harvey led the Peugeot assault as he and teammate Dan Eaves line up sixth and seventh in their Peugeot 406 Coupes with both drivers also setting their fastest times towards the end of the session.
1 Matt Neal (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:27.316
2 James Thompson (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:27.317
3 Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:27.884
4 Anthony Reid (MG ZS) 1:28.048
5 Warren Hughes (MG ZS) 1:28.118
6 Tim Harvey (Peugeot 406 Coupe) 1:28.136
7 Dan Eaves (Peugeot 406 Coupe) 1:28.259
8 Paul O'Neill (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:28.341
9 Colin Turkington (MG ZS) 1:28.843
10 David Leslie (Proton Impian) 1:29.107
Second qualifying session (for feature race)
Matt Neal followed up his Sprint Race pole position by doing the same for the Feature Race. He was on the pace from the early laps but as Yvan Muller closed in Neal responded and set a fastest lap of 1m 27.074. Muller could only set a 1m 27.239 and so lines up second on the grid.
Warren Hughes split the Vauxhalls with a fine third place in his MG, and Paul O'Neill and James Thompson line up fourth and fifth respsectively, with O'Neill doing one outstanding lap on a six-lap run whereas Thompson was limited to just one competitive flying lap during the session.
There were problems further down too as Tim Harvey's Peugeot engine cut out at the start of the session and refused to start preventing him from taking part in the session.
His teammate Dan Eaves would have lined up seventh on the grid but he failed a scrutineering check and his times were disallowed, sending him to the back of the grid. Anthony Reid and Colin Turkington, in his BTCC debut, line up sixth and seventh in their MGs.
1 Matt Neal (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:27.074
2 Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:27.239
3 Warren Hughes (MG ZS) 1:27.345s
4 Paul O'Neill (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:27.417
5 James Thompson (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:27.562
6 Anthony Reid (MG ZS) 1:27.734
7 Colin Turkington (MG ZS) 1:27.983
8 David Leslie (Proton Impian) 1:28.562
9 Andy Priaulx (Honda Civic Type-R) 1:28.689
10 Aaron Slight (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 1:28.705
The races take place on Sunday 21st April with the 15-lap Sprint race starting at 12noon GMT and the 25-lap Feature Race commencing at 3.40pm GMT.