It was Britons to the fore under sunny skies at Donington Park, as James Thompson and Jason Plato added to their championship tallies in the British Touring Car Championship.

Thompson claimed his second win of the season in round eleven of the www.theAA.com-backed MSA series, in front of a 15,400 strong crowd. The Yorkshireman executed an impressive drive at the Derbyshire circuit, profiting from a closely fought battle between championship front men Yvan Muller and Plato.

Thompson was also set to produce one of the closest finishes between a BTC Touring Car and a BTC Production entry. Five laps from the end, the Yorkshireman was only 25 seconds behind the leading Production car, and gaining at five seconds a lap. However, the safety car was deployed on lap ten resulting in the bunching of both classes, and killing the tension that had built up towards the closing stages, and allowing the Team Egg Sport driver an easier passage to the front.

Vauxhall Motorsport's Muller and Plato then entertained the spectators with a battle of the giants. Plato moved up into third place after Phil Bennett spun at McLeans early on in the race, and went on to fight for second place. Catching up to his team-mate at the Melbourne hairpin, Plato's car kissed the rear bumper of the Frenchman as he nipped inside to claim second. Despite a strong retaliatory challenge from Muller, Plato's determination held firm as he went on to claim a second place finish.

Thompson, however, benefited from the duos duelling and claimed his second win.

"I was pleased with the race,'' he smiled afterwards, ''I managed to get ahead of the Vauxhall works cars, and put a bit of space between me and them. Unfortunately, I lost a bit of time on some oil that had been spilt by one of the Production cars but, after the safety car went in, I managed to sandwich myself and the Vauxhalls by putting a couple of Production cars between us! It seemed that Muller and Plato were pre-occupied with their duel which took their minds off me. Luckily, I made the most of it."

In the Production Class, HTML's Simon Harrison was looking set to notch up another win, after Gavin Pyper was forced to start from the back of the grid as a result of broken differential. The bad luck passed down the field, however, as Harrison suffered brake problems. All was not lost for the HTML squad, though, as team-mate Roger Moen moved up into first place, a position he held for the duration of the race.

"The race was great for me,'' Moen commented, ''Fortunately, luck was on my side as I didn't suffer any brake problems but, unlike my team-mate, I was only carrying 33kg of ballast. I started off in third place and was aiming for a first place finish. I had no problems with my tyres, which obviously helped."

Pyper was not to be deterred, despite starting at the back of the grid. The determined Scot drove an excellent race and also profited from the deployment of the safety car, which helped him to catch GR Motorsport's Mat Jackson. Jackson finished in third place in his Ford Focus.

"The race was great and, although I started from the back of the grid, the safety car helped me catch up,'' he agreed, ''I did smile when the safety car came out, and it definitely worked in my favour. The morning test session was a nightmare, because we had to change my gearbox whilst all the other Production guys were on the grid. We were all panicking. The team deserved to be in the second place at the end of the sprint race."

Round twelve produced the closest start from the lights to be witnessed so far this season. All of the front contenders jostled for the lead, but poleman Thompson strongly defended his line and retained his pole position - only to make a rare mistake at the McLeans hairpin. This minor miscalculation pushed him wide and onto the grass, opening the door to Jason Plato, who wasted no time in claiming the front slot. This was to set the pace for the entire race.

Muller maintained his consistent form by making an early impressive pit-stop - just 6.4secs - that he hoped would gain him some time, but lost out after collecting a black and white marker strip for the second race in a row.

Team Egg's Thompson wasted no time in executing his pit-stop. The team's strategy was to get the Yorkshireman out ahead of the Frenchman, and it was one that was successful - but only just, as both drivers subsequently ran nose-to-tail.

Plato pitted next, matching Thompson's time of 6.5secs, as the early pit-stop strategy adopted by the Vauxhall camp handed the lead to Team Peugeot Sport on lap twelve. Dan Eaves took the honour of leading the Peugeot pack, with team-mates Aaron Slight and Steve Soper following on.

Unfortunately for Eaves, his joy was short lived as a disappointing tyre stop saw the young driver spend over 30 seconds stationary in the pits, as the team experienced problems with the right front wheel nut. It was a happier story trackside, however, as ex-world superbike rider - and Donington maestro - Slight took the lead in his inaugural feature race. The New Zealander, despite being forced to retire after sustaining damage during a battle between the Vauxhalls and Peugeots, was ecstatic with his performance on the day.

"What a great race, I achieved everything and more than expected,'' he enthused, ''I got a great start, led the race and was able to be the lead Peugeot on my first BTCC feature race. I am sure I surprised a few of the regulars out there, both on the track and in the paddock. I was pleased to see my superbike friends and thanked them for their support. I would also like to thank Peugeot and Octagon Motorsport for this opportunity. I hope that my performance proves what is to come."

Eaves went on to make up for lost time later on in the race, and benefited from the deployment of the safety car on lap 13. Team Peugeot Sport made significant inroads at Donington Park, and Eaves clearly contributed to its most competitive performance of the season.

Once again, however, it was the Vauxhall pairing which thrilled the crowds at the front of pack, as Plato pushed Muller wide and claimed a winning position. Muller, having initially found a way past the blue-and-green Egg Sport Astra of Thompson, was left to battle with the Yorkshireman for a whole lap, and struggled with understeer for the remainder of the race. It wasn't long before Thompson reeled the works Vauxhall in and went on to claim second.

"It was a good win,'' Plato commented, ''We made quite a few detail changes for this race and they worked. The pace was good, as was the pit-stop strategy. I know I am still 20 points behind Muller, but we have only reached the half way mark of the championship."

The BTC Production feature race produced a new visitor to the top step of the podium this weekend as GR Motorsport's Mat Jackson produced the drive of his career to put him on the winner's rostrum.

The GR Motorsport Ford Focus performed well on the Midland's track with the balance and set up of the car clearly suited to the 20-year old.

Pole-man Gavin Pyper once again suffered bad luck as his Alfa Romeo 156 was forced to retire on lap six, while championship leader James Kaye also retired, after suffering a calliper mount problem. This left Team Barwell Sport's Simon Graves and HTML's Roger Moen battling for the front spot, but it was not long before Graves suffered an engine misfire and allowed both Moen and Jackson to profit from this.

Jackson then mounted an attack on Moen, who was struggling to defend his line due to the sort of brake problems that had afflicted HTML team-mate Harrison in the sprint and, with the top step in his sights, Jackson claimed it on the penultimate lap as he passed the Peugeot driver at McLeans.

"It was wicked,'' he beamed later, ''I knew I had the quicker car in the straights, and it was all about picking the right place at the right time. The car felt fantastic, it is the first BTC Production win for the team and I am really happy for them, we all deserve it."

Despite a disappointing weekend, Kaye still heads the BTC Production Class with 114 points, five points ahead of nearest rival Harrison. Moen lies in third with 106.

The next round of the BTCC takes place north of the border, at Knockhill, on 21-22 July.