23 July 2001
Shedden shines; Vauxhall claims marque prize.
Vauxhall Motorsport won the manufacturers' crown at rounds 13 and 14 of the British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill, collecting first, second and third positions in both races to claim the coveted title on a weekend that saw more than its fair share of incidents.
In the BTC Production category, the story was the debut of guest driver Gordon Shedden, who made an outstanding first appearance to claim first position in the feature race and second in the sprint for GR Motorsport.
Vauxhall's Yvan Muller produced the best start of the Touring pack to nudge ahead of pole winning team-mate Jason Plato at the first bend, the notorious Duffus Dip. All BTC Touring entrants completed the first lap without incident, but the racing was close and it wasn't long before wing mirrors were touching. The JSM Alfa Romeo of Tom Ferrier became the first casualty, losing the driver's door on lap two and subsequently retiring.
The BTC Production category started with a ten-second time delay to their Touring counterparts, and local hero Shedden got the better of Team Kaliber Sport's James Kaye to lead the group for the first half of the race. The lap times of both categories were pointing towards a last-lap battle as the Touring class 'stagger' unwound, and it was anybody's guess as to who would claim the top step on the podium.
Plato clearly had the fastest car on the circuit, and quickly applied the pressure on team-mate Muller, who drove a defensive race for the next three laps. The Englishman finally found a way through, however, taking Muller at Clarks and leaving him free to embark on his catch-up campaign with the Production class.
Further down the field, the battle for fourth position resulted in contact between the Vauxhall Egg Sport Astra of Phil Bennett and the Peugeot 406 of Steve Soper. Both cars came off at Taylor's Hairpin, but it was Bennett who managed to rejoin the track, handing fourth to the ABG Motorsport Lexus of Thomas Erdos.
As has become the norm, luck was not with the Peugeot team as, two laps later, Dan Eaves in the second 406 out-braked himself at Duffers Dip, sending him into the tyre wall. The impact resulted in broken suspension which could not be repaired in time for the feature race.
The battle at the front of the field was hotting up, with the two Team Kaliber Sport Honda Accords fighting for second position with the HTML Peugeot of Simon Harrison. Harrison took Kaye to sandwich himself between the two Hondas, leaving Simon Graves in second and catching Shedden. The Scot's tyres began to look troubled as he fought for grip, and Graves looked ever stronger, setting the fastest laps of the Production field. He eventually took the lead at Taylor's on lap 16 but, all the time, Plato was cutting his way through the field, closing to within 4.5secs on lap 16.
The Vauxhall driver started the last lap of the race in third position, still needing to catch Shedden and Graves if he was to win the race outright. Shedden defended well, but lost position when exiting Taylor's, the speed and handling of the Astra proving too much for the Production car. Graves, however, just managed to hang on to claim his first BTCC win for Team Kaliber Sport in what was undoubtedly the closest sprint race of the championship.
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