It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for Petronas Syntium Proton drivers David Leslie and Phil Bennett. Leslie managed to rallycross his way into the points whereas Bennett was forced into an unusual route on to the podium at Mondello Park.

In the first race of the day at the Mondello circuit, Leslie survived a rain-affected race of attrition to come home 5th, while Bennett was the innocent party in a pitlane incident that damaged his Petronas-backed Proton Impian and caused his later retirement. In the second race, the same scenario was re-enacted with both drivers running with the leaders before Bennett's car expired as the heavens opened once again.

Leslie continued to challenge for a top-three place before his gearlever broke with just three laps to go, forcing him to finish the race stuck in third gear and come home in 9th place.

With Phil Bennett qualifying in 10th slot just two places ahead of David Leslie, the first 25-lap race started in damp conditions with all drivers on slicks, expecting their mandatory pitstop in the window between lap 10 and lap 18. However, the fickle Irish weather played its hand after just two laps as the heavens opened.

Bennett was the first of the Touring Cars to pit for wets, on lap 3. "It was suddenly very slippery so our early decision to go with wets gave me a huge advantage," he explained. "I was moving up in the top ten and looking good for a strong finish". Despite this, the safety car also played a major part in the outcome of the race, putting in no less than three appearances. During its second on lap 12, several drivers took the opportunity to take their mandatory pitstop, including the hapless Bennett who on leaving was struck in the pitlane by O'Neill's Vauxhall Astra.

Bennett's car was spun by the impact and hit the BTCC podium truck, inflicting serious damage to the Impian's front left corner. "I'm determined to get on the podium but not like that!" he quipped afterwards.

Just two laps later he was out with a seized gearbox due to oil cooler damage sustained in the collision.

Meanwhile David Leslie was operating in survival mode, having had three offs before the final run in to the flag. He finished a strong 5th, grateful to have kept out of serious trouble. "My Proton Impian was strong, but I had a touch more oversteer than I like, even allowing for the conditions," explained the canny Scot. "Still, 5th is better than a one-way trip to the gravel traps!"

With grid positions in the second race determined by the finishing positions in the first, Leslie started on the third row with Bennett in his patched-up car in 12th spot. Both made lightning starts in the damp conditions, with Bennett running just behind his team leader. With Muller and Morrison tangling before the end of lap 1, Leslie found himself in 3rd place with his car handling more to his liking thanks to his engineers' hard work.

Sadly, Bennett's race was run just a few corners later, retiring with radiator failure. "I guess this just wasn't my weekend - hitting the podium truck basically caused my retirement in both races," said the hapless Bennett afterwards. "Still, we have a lot of good things coming through and it's about time my luck turned."

As Bennett retired, the rain appeared briefly once again with Leslie losing third spot to the leading pair of Hondas. It then held off until just as the pitstop window opened, so virtually all the drivers changed to wets during their allotted stop.

"On wets, the car was even better so I was able to maintain my top-five position," Leslie said. "But with three laps to go, the gearlever broke leaving the car stuck in third gear. It was a tough day but we're putting into practice what we learned last year. Roll on Brands!"

Team boss David Wong, gave his take on the day from the cold and wet pitlane. "I'm delighted that we have once again come away from an incident-packed race weekend with valuable points. We have a rolling programme of significant developments under way for 2003 so this is a good start. We're already looking forward to Brands."