Astra Coupe drivers in 3-way tie for championship! Rounds 5 & 6 of the Green Flag British Touring Car Championship came to a thrilling climax this afternoon resulting in a staggering three-way tie for the championship between Vauxhall...
Astra Coupe drivers in 3-way tie for championship!
Rounds 5 & 6 of the Green Flag British Touring Car Championship came to a thrilling climax this afternoon resulting in a staggering three-way tie for the championship between Vauxhall Motorsport's Yvan Muller and James Thompson and EggSport Astra Coupe driver, Matt Neal. All three drivers currently lead the standings with 59 points - a clear 24 points ahead of their nearest rival.
The Vauxhall drivers certainly shared the spoils between them though this afternoon. Round 5 was won by Thompson with Neal a close second after previous race leader, Muller, retired due to damage sustained in a racing incident with his team-mate. The Frenchman kept his cool though and exacted revenge in the 30-lap Feature race (Round 6) winning ahead of Thompson and Neal. The result produced Vauxhall Motorsport's second 1-2 of the season. And as they head to Rounds 7&8 at Silverstone in three week's time, Vauxhall still tops the Manufacturers' championship with 171 points to MG's 80 and Vauxhall Motorsport heads EggSport in the Teams' championship by a clear 14 points.
It was all happening though in the 15-lap Sprint race as the two Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupes put on a thrilling display of door-to-door action and heart stopping overtaking manoeuvres. Unfortunately for Muller, who had started from pole, it was to end in a non-finish after contact with his team-mate, Thompson, resulted in a broken trackrod. Thompson though was thrilled with his win, temporarily promoting the Yorkshireman from third to second in the Championship standings. Egg Sport's Matt Neal meanwhile, triumphed in his monumental battle with MG driver, Anthony Reid to go on to finish second, handing Neal a temporary championship lead of just one point.
There was no doubt however that this would be a classic race from the moment the cars left the grid with Muller and Thompson both getting a clean getaway with Reid and Neal putting the pressure on from behind. The opening two laps saw Muller and Thompson battle hard for position but despite repeated attempts by Thompson to pass the Astra of Muller, he had him covered. Reid, in third meanwhile, had his rear view mirror full with the image of Neal's Astra Coupe. Neal's dogged determination paid off and the Birmingham driver dived past into third on lap three. This had allowed Muller and Thompson to pull away from the field in their identical Astra Coupes only for the pair to fall foul of traffic as they hit the Production class backmarkers by lap nine.
This was to set off a chain of events that saw Muller and Thompson repeatedly trading places for the lead. A dive up the inside of Thompson however, resulted in contact between the pair with Muller sustaining a broken trackrod putting an end to his race hopes as he pulled off the circuit with just three laps to go. It was also to cost him the championship lead temporarily. Thompson went on to claim his second win of the season with Neal in second and Reid a close third.
After the disappointment of the Sprint race however, the 30-lap Feature race proved to be Muller's saving grace and after starting from pole, he never really looked threatened despite Thompson's Astra Coupe hounding him all the way. The pair tailed each other continuously throughout the safety car interrupted race and although Thompson hung on to him, with an extra 66kgs, he was never going to pass the Astra of Muller. Matt Neal continued his charge for championship points battling not only with Reid but also coming under pressure from Priaulx and Harvey. He defended well and the Astra Coupe took a well-deserved third place behind Muller and Thompson. It was to prove a crucial result with the Astra Coupe 1-2-3 resulting in an astounding three-way tie for the championship. Ends
Vauxhall Motorsport Quotes:
Yvan Muller, Car 2, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - DNF, Feature - Winner, 45:36.654, FL: 1:17.303 (lap 8)
(Re: Sprint) "I have to accept what happened as a racing incident but I'm not very pleased with one of the Production class drivers who decided to fight against me at the Complex. That's what started the whole chain of events enabling James to get near me."
(Re: Feature) "Overall, it's been a very frustrating weekend but a win is very good. We are so close and it's good to have an honest fight within the team."
James Thompson, Car 3, Vauxhall Motorsport Astra Coupe
Sprint - Winner, 19:47.539, FL: 1:17.344 (lap 4), Feature - 2nd, 45:37.161
(Re: Sprint) "That was a right good old tussle! That's about as close as it gets in racing. What happened with Yvan was just one of those things. He dived down the inside and we made contact. It sent me sideways but it wasn't a big problem. We were pretty evenly matched all race and just toying with each other really - I was really enjoying it. He allowed me to nip through at Goodwood when he made a mistake which started it all off. We were having a good, clean scrap at pretty high speeds and it's a real shame he had to retire."
(Re: Feature) "I'm very happy with today's results and my Astra Coupe was very fast today especially as I was 66kgs heavier than Yvan in the Feature. It's been a cracking weekend - a win and a second. I feel like I'm back on track. "
OTHER VAUXHALL NEWS
Matt Neal, Car 0, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 2nd, 19:49.941, Feature - 3rd, 45:44.501
Paul O'Neill, Car 29, Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Sprint - 8th, 20:09.534, Feature - 7th, 45:53.406