Warren Hughes and Colin Turkington each took their first wins of the season to give MG a victory double in rounds 15 and 16 of the BTCC yesterday.
Vauxhall's Yvan Muller, meanwhile, took second and fifth place finishes to stretch his championship lead to 25 points over team-mate and defending champion James Thompson with four rounds to go.
In the Hilton Independents Trophy for privateer teams, GA Motorsports' Carl Breeze and Team Halfords' Dan Eaves shared the victory spoils. In the fight for the title, Collard Racing's Rob Collard retired from both races and saw his lead dramatically slashed to just six points by Synchro Honda Racing's James Kaye.
In the Production class, Edenbridge Racing's Michael Bentwood and Team Varta's Tom Boardman took a victory apiece as Barwell Motorsport's Luke Hines almost put the title out of reach with two podium finishes.
The first race saw Muller lead from pole position until falling to second behind Hughes during the mandatory tyre change pit stops. Muller started catching Hughes, but a sudden engine problem in the closing stages forced him to reduce his speed and settle for second ahead of MG's Turkington.
Hughes was delighted with his first win of the season, but admitted: “I was lucky that Yvan had his problem because he was catching me very quickly and I was a sitting duck. I would have defended as best as I could, but it would have been hard to keep him behind if he hadn't had problems.” He added: “After some major disappointments in recent races, this is just what I needed and I believe the MG ZS will be very strong in all the remaining races.”
Muller said: “I was coming for the win and was confident I could have made it past Warren, but then my engine's water temperature started to go up so I backed off.” The Frenchman, though, was safe in the knowledge that title rival Thompson was trapped in fifth position behind Honda's Matt Neal who drove a defensive race in his Civic Type-R to keep the reigning champion at bay. “I was delighted with that result. This isn't the Honda's strongest track and the Civic Type-R was weighed down with maximum success ballast after our win at Snetterton two weeks ago,” said Neal. Thompson, who had maintained his second position off the starting grid in the early stages, could count himself unfortunate to be behind Neal after being badly delayed by a lengthy pit stop.
Sixth, right behind this pair, was Vauxhall's Paul O'Neill, while MG's Anthony Reid, Honda's Tom Chilton and Petronus Syntium Proton's David Leslie – his team's Impian working well around Brands' twisty Indy circuit – completed the top nine. O'Neill had also been delayed when he had to take avoiding action to prevent himself accidentally being squeezed into the pit lane by Neal who was coming in for his tyre stop!
Tenth and taking his first Hilton Independents Trophy victory of the season was Breeze, in GA's Astra Coupe. “This is a long overdue win,” said Breeze. “We were very close to it at Croft, but the car was damaged and I fell to second behind Rob at the end. This is the perfect result.” Breeze's day was made when, just behind him on the track, Independents points leader Rob Collard spun out of the race, enabling him to take a full 15 points out of his rival's advantage. Collard's retirement was the result of a clash with fellow Astra Coupe driver, Team Dynamics' Gareth Howell, at Paddock Hill Bend. Howell was able to continue, but his Astra had been damaged in the collision and, as he nursed the car to the line, was also overtaken by rival Independents Kaye and Eaves.