James Thompson described his elation after triumphing in the third and final race of the fourth round of the 2009 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Oulton Park at the weekend - and now the Yorkshireman has his sights set firmly on maintaining his winning run on home turf at Croft in just under a fortnight's time.
Thompson headed to the demanding and undulating Cheshire circuit sitting sixth in the drivers' standings with 51 points to his name, 38 markers adrift of early-season pace-setter and fellow former double BTCC champion Matt Neal. Qualifying, though, went far from according to plan behind the wheel of his Team Dynamics-run Honda Civic, leaving him just twelfth on the 21-car grid for the opening encounter, almost a second shy of Chevrolet rival Jason Plato on pole position.
From there, the 35-year-old recovered to eighth spot in race one and seventh in race two crucially earning him the all-important reverse grid pole position for race three. Courtesy of a textbook getaway when the starting lights went out, Thompson ably fended off early pressure from the Vauxhall of Andrew Jordan behind him to comfortably pull away to an eventual 2.2-second victory - his third from the just nine outings in 2009, following his Donington Park double two weeks earlier.
It was a fantastic end to the weekend! he enthused afterwards, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. We're really over the moon from a team point-of-view it means we've won three races from the last six now, which is fantastic. The boys worked really hard this weekend and we improved the car after the disappointment of qualifying, where we underachieved really with the package we've got.
I'd actually thought we may have had chance to challenge for pole, but this track threw up a few particular things that weren't working well for us initially. We worked through things as a team, though, and whilst we didn't identify a particularly good qualifying balance, the race balance as we evolved it from one race to another was fantastic.
Obviously the plan is always to try to win the first race, but after qualifying we changed that around and thought we'd try to find a few places in the first race and find a few more in the second and try to get to sixth place. We managed seventh, which was a bit of a spanner in the works, but that worked out exceptionally well for us in the third race, starting at the front, and the car was amazing.
Thanks to the team's work, our pace was significantly better than in the first two races. It took about four or five laps for the car to settle down, but once it did we had really good pace, particularly in the middle part of the race. It was enough that it allowed me just to manage the gap for the last few laps.
Though he is still sixth in the chase for the crown, Thompson has narrowly closed the gap on Neal, with no driver yet breaking away in the manner that Fabrizio Giovanardi did twelve months ago. When pressed about his chances of a title charge, however, the 35-time BTCC race-winner remained coy, knowing that he may be forced to miss two further outings later in the due to his commitments elsewhere.
Like I say, we've won three from the last six and we're obviously challenging, Thommo concluded. We had a little bit of a setback in qualifying, but I think we've identified the problems there and now we move onto Croft, which is my home track. I'm looking forward to it; I usually have quite a good strike rate there, so let's hope we can keep the ball rolling.
Unfortunately I have clashes of calendar, so it's going to be difficult to look at the end of the season, but we've still got quite a few races ahead of us that I can do, so the goal is really to try and keep winning as many as we can and see where we stand.TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE