1 July 2001
Donington delivers British double.
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.”
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