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Double victory puts Muller in the driving seat

Yvan Muller has leapt to the top of the British Touring Car Championship standings after completing an Oulton Park double with a win in the feature race today

Pre-Oulton series leader Jason Plato was forced to retire from his battle with Muller in a race of attrition which provided more entertainment and, at times, hilarity than any BTCC race in recent memory.

Muller got the jump on works Vauxhall Astra Coupe team-mate Plato at the start, while in the battle of the sister Triple Eight-run Egg Sport cars it was Phil Bennett who got ahead of James Thompson for third. But Bennett lost it at Cascades on the second lap, dropping right to the back of the field.

Muller made his compulsory pit stop at the end of lap eight, but Plato - who stopped a lap later - emerged just ahead of the Frenchman. With Plato on cold tyres, Muller was able to get a run on him down to the Island hairpin and retake the advantage.

From then on Plato chased Muller hard, until the Briton's Vauxhall dropped out with five laps to go thanks to a broken pipe in the powersteering system.

"It was a good fight," affirmed Muller. "After I overtook Jason I lost time in traffic and had to push a bit more on the brakes, but then I drove at the minimum I needed to keep the advantage to Jason.

"Then I saw he had a problem so I lifted off the throttle. Apart from brake problems the car was perfect, and I must say well done to the [Sodemo] engine men. We were having to slow the car with the gears, so the engine must be very strong."

Once ahead of Bennett, Thompson could not make up the deficit to the works
Vauxhalls and he had to settle for second, a position he held despite a rough sounding engine, suspected of being caused by a broken exhaust.

During the pit-stop cycle the battle between Dan Eaves (Peugeot) and Tim Harvey (JSM Alfa Romeo) was elevated to the scrap for the lead. Twice Harvey got ahead, only for Eaves to retaliate immediately. Then, at the third time of asking, Harvey completed a whole lap in the lead before moving aside for the charging Vauxhalls and then making his own stop.

Shortly after that Eaves retired with suspected electrical failure, leaving
Harvey to take a remarkable third place. Steve Soper, who had tailed this duo, stalled at his pit stop and retired on the last lap with a suspension breakage.

Bennett recovered, despite gearbox problems, but then punted off Kurt Luby's
Lexus (which had made another fast start) at Cascades when he missed a downshift. Bennett soon dropped out with transmission failure, leaving Luby to complete the finishers in the Touring class in fourth.

Fourth overall, just holding off Luby at the line, was Gavin Pyper in the Production class winning GA Janspeed Alfa Romeo. The Scot dominated to win by 28 seconds, although claimed his race was: "Not without drama. At one point I went straight off onto the grass at the hairpin. But the car was consistent and I put in some mega quick laps at the start so I could maintain a reasonable speed to the end."

Gareth Howell took second in class in his Ford Focus, holding off a mid-race challenge from the brake-troubled Peugeot of Simon Harrison. Harrison now moves into the championship lead, as previous leader James Kaye retired his Honda with drivetrain problems. Sprint race winner Roger Moen also fell by the wayside with clutch failure.

Star of the race for the crowd was 17-year-old Tom Boardman, who won a frantic battle for fourth. Mat Jackson dropped out of this scrap when he went off at Druids, before Peter Cate's Honda took up the challenge. Boardman and Cate panel-bashed all round the circuit for half the race, the Peugeot shedding bodywork and both drivers earning driver warning flags. Then Boardman pushed Cate off the circuit at Cascades, before the Focuses of golden oldies Richard Meins and Rick Kraemer moved in to seriously hassle him all the way to the flag.




Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 30 laps in 45m01.849s
James Thompson (Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +2.152s
Tim Harvey (JSM Alfa Romeo 147) +55.423s
P Gavin Pyper (GA Janspeed Alfa Romeo 156) -1 lap
Kurt Luby (ABG Motorsport Lexus IS200) -1 lap
P Gareth Howell (GR Motorsport Ford Focus) -1 lap
P Simon Harrison (HTML Peugeot 306) -1 lap
P Tom Boardman (TBR Peugeot 306) -1 lap
P Rick Kraemer (GR Motorsport Ford Focus) -1 lap
10 P Richard Meins (GR Motorsport Ford Focus) -1 lap
Plato 1m28.226s


Pyper
Howell
Harrison
Boardman
Kraemer
Meins
Pyper 1m32.013s



1 Muller 82; 2 Thompson 70; 3 Plato 68; 4 Bennett 46; 5 Eaves 21; 6 Soper 19; 7 Luby 17; 8 Harvey 16; 9 Neal 11; 10 Pinkney 6.


1 Harrison 59; 2 Kaye 52; 3 Pyper 42; 4 Moen 41; 5 Jackson 36; 6 Howell 34.

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