BTCC » 12 June 2000
Thompson battles to sprint win.
It may have been somewhat fortuitous but James Thompson didn't see it that way, as long as he won he wasn't too concerned with how he did it. Thompson was just glad to have something to smile about after what was supposed to be 'his' year turned into a nightmare at the very first round of the championship. Now out of the title picture, Thompson is simply trying to act as a spoiler for his Honda team-mates, not allowing their rivals to gain too many points.
James had reason to be optimistic before the start, he was on the front row in a car which likes the Silverstone track and which wasn't carrying any success ballast. Then again so was pole-man Rickard Rydell.
It was the Ford Mondeo pilot who led the field away at the start with the Honda of Gabriele Tarquini bursting into second place from fourth on the grid. Anthony Reid also got the better of Thompson off the line and so as the field charged down to the Becketts complex it was Ford, Honda, Ford, Honda with Tom Kristensen in the third factory Honda in fifth.
One driver not amongst the battle for the lead however, was championship leader Alain Menu whose clutch failed on the grid. That left Jason Plato and Yvan Muller battling for sixth place as the pack made their way around the first lap.
It was clear from the first turn that Tarquini was in an explosive mood and as he and Rydell came back onto the Grand Prix circuit, the Italian driver made an extremely forceful move on the Mondeo, forcing the Swede to concede his place. Behind these two Plato had already moved onto the boot-lid of Kristensen and was making his presence known to the Danish driver. On lap two it all came unstuck for the Vauxhall driver when he went for a gap that was rapidly diminishing. The net result was a collision between the two which saw Plato limp to a halt with a broken suspension while Kristensen continued, apparently none the worse for wear.
Tarquini still looked as though he was on a mission and was trying desperately to put some clean air between himself and the two Ford's of Rydell and Reid. However as a result of several skirmishes throughout the field, Copse was now coated in oil, something which Tarquini discovered as he began his third lap. Travelling like a missile, Gabriele hit the oil and ploughed into the gravel trap although amidst much engine revving in Honda was able to re-join the race in a cloud of grit and dust, albeit now at the back of the pack.
Rydell was thus handed back the lead while Reid and Thompson found themselves battling for second place. Yvan Muller had taken advantage of Kristensen's delay to move into fourth ahead of the Danish driver while Matt Neal and Vincent Radermecker had avoided the action at the head of the field to move into sixth and seventh.
The status quo was brief as Rydell now found his rear bumper beginning to part company with the main body of his car. This was of concern to the stewards who eventually decided to make the Swedish start come into the pits to have it fastened properly. Joining Rydell in the pits was Muller who was adjudged to have taken the start from the wrong position.
In the midst of this confusion, Thompson had slipped by Reid and was now leading the race while Kristensen had advanced to third ahead of Neal, Radermecker, a recovering Tarquini, Muller and Rydell who was now the last of the factory cars.
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