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O'Neill and Neal take wins.

Thompson said: “The circuit was very dirty and I had a bit of a wild moment controlling the car. I wasn't going to make a crazy move to get past Paul. I knew Yvan was behind so I'd be taking points out of him. I'm happy with second considering we were carrying maximum ballast.”

Muller acknowledged he had been fortunate to avoid the melee ahead of him at the start after qualifying down in seventh on the grid following mechanical problems in Friday practice that had left him short of track time. “I was lucky I didn't hit anyone,” said Muller. “I saw three cars in front of me crashing into one another and just swerved to miss them. The race was more or less a test session to find out about the car after the time I lost yesterday.”

Behind fourth-placed Neal was MG's Reid. Sixth, thanks to a stunning comeback drive from last after a pit stop to repair his Civic Type-R – damaged in the startline fracas – was 18-year-old Chilton. Kaye took seventh and Independents victory ahead of points leader Collard whose Astra Coupe was just over a second behind the Honda at the finish. Bennett took ninth in his Impian. Gareth Howell, returning to the BTCC's top flight for the remainder of the season in Team Dynamics' Vauxhall Astra Coupe, was classified 13th, a lap down after problems, while missing was Buxton, his pursuit of Collard in the early stages ending when his Peugeot 307's engine broke.

Tenth, 11th and 12th places were filled by the only three finishers in the Production class. Mark Fullalove, who had so impressively led the class on his return to the series in Techspeed's Peugeot 306, eventually had to settle for second behind points leader Hines' Civic Type-R. Hines' team-mate Alan Blencowe was third in class, but there was heartache for Team Varta's Jim Edwards who had looked on course for fourth position in his first race with the team's Peugeot 307, only for it to break down at the last corner. Edwards' team-mate Boardman plus the Kartworld Nissan Primera of Jason Hughes had already joined him in retirement.

The second race was as equally dramatic and unpredictable as the first. O'Neill, by winning the first race, had guaranteed himself pole position on the grid, but although he led the first lap – which saw some of the most ferocious racing in recent BTCC history – he received a drive-through pitlane penalty for jumping the start. He rejoined virtually last and would go on to finish 10th.

This left Neal in the lead from Thompson and their positions remained the same after the pit stops. Thompson spent the rest of the race just inches from Neal's rear bumper, but some excellent defensive driving from the Honda driver kept him in front. Thompson appeared to be gearing up for a last lap bid for glory but, halfway around the circuit, his Astra Coupe suddenly slowed.

The following Morrison, Reid, Turkington – setting some stunning lap times as he carved his way through the field from near the back of the grid – and Chilton all sped by as the Vauxhall driver tried unsuccessfully to coax his car to the finish. Collard, on his way to Independents victory, Breeze, Hughes, Leslie and O'Neill also moved past. This was a major blow to Thompson for it meant he missed a chance to effectively draw level on points with championship leader Muller who was already out of the race with a mechanical problem. The gap between them, with six races to go is just 13 points.

Neal thus took what, in the end, was a simple victory and, on approaching the line, he slowed right up to allow Morrison to join him in a Honda Racing 1-2 formation finish. Neal, however, later revealed he had to overcome a series of problems in the race. “On the first lap, my exhaust got hit and the car kept filling up with fumes. Luckily, there's a good ventilation system in the Honda,” said Neal. “My gearbox also kept selecting neutral between downshifts form fifth to fourth and third to second and that's why, sometimes, I went off the track.” Neal's win moved him past O'Neill into third in the championship standings and Thompson in the victory stakes, this his fourth of the season so far.

After revealing he was “gutted” by his first race retirement, Morrison said this time he was “relieved” to cross the line in second. Third-placed Reid said: “I'm pleased with this result, as Snetterton is very much a power circuit and our engine was not a match for the Astras and Hondas today.”

Collard's sixth place meant not only did he take Independents victory but, with nearest rival Kaye back in third and 11th overall with a sick car, also extended his lead in the championship. Collard had to resist the attentions of Breeze who, particularly while lapping slower cars, came close to challenging for the lead. For Breeze, the result went some way to making up for his first race disappointment. He at least enjoyed mechanical reliability – GA team-mate Paul Wallace managed just two racing laps all weekend as his Astra Coupe suffered engine problems.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Paul O`Neill on the podium at Thruxton, he finished third in both round 5 and 6
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