Vauxhall Motorsport's James Thompson and Yvan Muller showed a sign of things to come today as they battled for the top spot at the final TOCA Test before the start of the 2002 British Touring Car Championship next Easter Bank Holiday Weekend...
Vauxhall Motorsport's James Thompson and Yvan Muller showed a sign of things to come today as they battled for the top spot at the final TOCA Test before the start of the 2002 British Touring Car Championship next Easter Bank Holiday Weekend (March 30/31-April 1).
It was Yorkshireman, Thompson, however, who set the pace alight in the second of the day's sessions to pip his French teammate by just 0.04 seconds. Hot on their heels were fellow Astra Coupé drivers, Egg Sport's Matt Neal and Barwell Motorsport's 17-year-old talent, Tom Chilton, making it a Vauxhall sweep of the top four. With just over a second separating the top six today, next weekend's championship opener at Brands Hatch circuit looks set to be a thrilling start to the season.
However, on a day that saw the announcement of new championship title sponsors, Green Flag, it was not all smooth going in the Vauxhall camp with punctured tyres caused by the airborn Astra Coupés landing on the kerbs at Dingle Dell, interrupting the sessions of both the Vauxhall Motorsport drivers. It is expected that the kerbs will be modified before the first round.
"It's been a very constructive day," commented Thompson. "We used the sessions to improve a few aspects of the car's set-up and that consequently improved the lap times and competitiveness of the Astra Coupé. Obviously I was a little concerned about the blow-outs but I now know why it happened and am confident it won't be a factor at the first round. Overall though, I'm very pleased with the day's results."
Vauxhall Motorsport teammate, Muller lost valuable track time as a result of his two punctures today, which saw him close to using his quota of BF Goodrich tyres. The Frenchman however was relatively pleased with the day's testing.
Egg Sport's Matt Neal and Paul O'Neill fared a mixed day with both drivers sitting out large periods of the testing sessions. Once on the track though, Birmingham driver, Neal made up for lost time setting an impressively third quickest time.
"On the Egg Sport front, it has been a very tough day," commented Vauxhall Motorsport Team Manager and Triple Eight Race Engineering Director, Ian Harrison. "There were a couple of reliability issues which restricted the drivers' track time, but that's motor racing I'm afraid. Generally though, it has been a productive day and things are obviously a lot closer this year between the teams."
Vauxhall begins the defence of its three titles, 25 wins and 73 podiums, next Easter Bank Holiday Weekend. Ends.
Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) TOCA Test - Brands Hatch - March 19 2002
(AM & PM Sessions Combined)
1 James Thompson Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1m 33.126 (29+18 laps)
2 Yvan Muller Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1m33.166 (37+20)
3 Matt Neal Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1m33.637 (15+16)
4 Tom Chilton Vauxhall Astra Coupé 1m34.016 (40+18)
5 Warren Hughes MG ZS 1m34.049 (21+25)
6 David Leslie Proton Impian 1m34.224 (27+12)