BTCC finale: Thompson is new champion

James Thompson is the 2002 British Touring Car Champion after an incident-packed opening couple of laps of the Feature race at Donington Park killed off team-mate Yvan Muller's title hopes when he damaged his steering in a clash with Paul O'Neill

BTCC finale: Thompson is new champion

Muller made a good start and took third position at the opening corner. His race began to go wrong, however, when he challenged the Egg Vauxhall of Matt Neal at the Esses on the first lap and the two collided, sending Muller into a wild slide.

He fell behind the second Egg Astra of O'Neill, and it was his attempt to repass the BTC Touring rookie that ended in a second collision at the Esses, after which Muller toured into the pits to retire with mortal damage to his car's steering.

"I tried to pass Matt and because it was him I turned in tight at thought he'd pull in behind me," said Muller. "But he didn't and I almost spun. Then I was behind Paul and he was stupidly fighting me. It's over. It's not bad luck, it's stupid luck. I tried to be nice, maybe I was too nice. In five years here [in the BTCC] I was fined only once. When you fight your team-mates it is always difficult."

Thompson also took a hit in the early stages, which damaged his rear bumper, but he continued to finish third, despite a strong challenge from Andy Priaulx's Honda.

"It's fantastic," he said. "The battle went right down the wire. I've done nearly 200 races in this championship and it's what I've worked towards. I'm overwhelmed, really."

Dan Eaves (VLR Peugeot 406) has been crowned Independents' Cup champion after Aaron Slight (Barwell Vauxhall Astra) retired on the opening lap with suspension trouble and Gareth Howell (TAK MG) was punted off at Coppice by a works MG.

"We've all worked very hard for this, it's just superb," said Eaves. "I've been with the team for four years, and I see what they do behind the scenes, so I'm so proud to win it for them."

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Donington sprint: Thommo edges closer

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