The Snetterton night race pulled in a bumper crowd of 16,500 spectators for Rounds 15 and 16 of the British Touring Car Championship this weekend.
BTC Touring driver Jason Plato
claimed double pole in the afternoon qualifying session ahead of Team Egg Sport's Phil Bennett in the Sprint Race and team-mate Yvan Muller in the Feature Race. In the BTC Production Class, Simon Harrison followed in Plato's footsteps to place his HTML prepared Peugeot 306 firmly on pole. Team Kaliber Sport's Simon Graves qualified his Honda Accord in second place ahead of Gavin Pyper in GA Janspeed's Alfa Romeo 156.
Rainy conditions graced the grid for the start of the 17 Lap Sprint Race but this did not deter the drivers from putting their cars to the test at the Norfolk track. The early evening race produced the closest finish seen this year as a mere 92 thousandths of a second separated first place BTC Production driver Simon Graves from BTC Touring driver Yvan Muller.
Graves executed a storming start, which put him ahead of HTML's Simon Harrison. He went on to dominate the Production Class for the remainder of the race. The highlight of the evening came on the last few laps. Muller had worked his way up through the Production pack and only had Graves to overtake to claim outright victory. The Frenchman, however, was eluded a win as Graves beat him through the Russell Chicane and forced Muller into second as they raced to the line.
The Team Kaliber Sport driver was delighted with his victory, despite having to adjust himself to the driving conditions and feel his way for the first few laps of the race.
Graves commented: ''The win was absolutely fantastic. It was wonderful especially with the tricky conditions as it was very slippy, and it was touch and go for a while, but I managed to get into a rhythm and made a little bit of a break which made life easier for myself. To end it with a perfect grandstand finish was stunning.''
GR Motorsport's Gareth Howell
finished in second place in his Ford Focus. He said: ''I'm really pleased but I was more worried about Rob Collard
behind me than Graves in front of me. I tried so many things to get grip and it was a bit of a lottery call out there. I was just relieved when nothing went wrong and we were able to get on the podium.''
In the BTC Touring Class, and despite only being able to claim second place overall, Muller once again thrilled the crowds with his outstanding car control as he found a new sparring partner for the evening in the form of James Thompson. Both drivers made a strong start, going into the first corner side-by-side and forcing pole man Plato into third place. Thompson then ran a little wide down the straight giving Muller the opportunity to pass. Muller and Thompson pulled away from Plato who appeared to be suffering from lack of grip in his works Vauxhall Astra, having struggled to find the perfect set-up in the driving conditions. Plato reclaimed second position from Thompson on Lap 10 after the Team Egg Sport driver struggled through Production category traffic.
This finish put both the Vauxhall Motorsport drivers on level pegging in the Drivers Championship with a total of 192 points apiece. A dramatic stage was set for the Feature Race ahead.