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Goodnight Vauxhall!

A crowd of 14,500 people turned up to enjoy the spectacle of the season's first BTCC night race at Silverstone on the weekend, and witnessed another impressive display by the various Vauxhall Astra Coupes.

The afternoon qualifying session produced yet another clean sweep of the front row for the Vauxhalls of Yvan Muller and team-mate Jason Plato, with the Frenchman claiming his second double pole position in a row, after the Bank Holiday meeting at Oulton Park. This left Muller, the leader of the championship coming into the Silverstone meeting, looking good to continue his winning streak and extend his twelve point advantage over second-placed James Thompson.

The Production category produced a similar story, with two team-mates claiming the front row as series leader Simon Harrison took P1 from HTML Peugeot partner Roger Moen. Harrison went into the day's two races with a six-point lead over Barwell Motorsport's James Kaye.

The opening sprint race began with the Touring category runners having a thirty second head start over the rest of the field as they attempted to make up the one lap deficit now demanded by the rules. Despite the 'advantage', however, the two Production class Peugeots managed to fend of the might of Plato's Astra as the evening gloom began to close in.

The HTML squad had led from the start, but the race wasn't without incident for the Silverstone-based team. A thrilling battle developed at the start, as the two red cars battled with the similarly-hued Alfa Romeo of Gavin Pyper, which was only resolved when the youngster spun at Becketts. Harrison eventually took the win to go with his class pole, extending his championship advantage after capitalising on a mistake by Moen, who out-braked himself on lap eleven.

''It was flat out from start to finish,'' Harrison commented afterwards, ''Roger was going really quickly and I just had to stay with him. If he hadn't made that little mistake, I don't think I would have passed him.''

The race also marked the first visit to a touring car podium for young Paul O'Neill who, despite being caught and passed by Plato, held third place overall, and in the Production Class, for the majority of the race. Only GR Motorsport's Mat Jackson could stay with the Techspeed driver, but was unable to challenge him for the silverware.

Plato's charge through the field eventually won him the Touring category. After making a fairly disappointing start by his own admission, the Briton quickly fought back and began to make his presence felt as he closed in on team-mate Muller. It could be argued that the Frenchman had a slight disadvantage by having to carry more success ballast than Plato, but the two red-and-white cars appeared to be evenly matched throughout the majority of the race.

Having closed the gap caused by his poor getaway, Plato then took the lead from Muller on lap five, capitalising on the close-fought Astra battle to stay ahead and move into second place in the championship. Behind the front two, Thompson brought his Team Egg Sport Astra home in third place, after an exciting battle with improving team-mate Phil Bennett. The two Peugeot 406 Coupes of Dan Eaves and Steve Soper, aided by a lack of ballast, finished not far behind, as the two Alfas and Kurt Luby's Lexus all hit problems.



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