Rivals aim to topple Ford

Ford may currently hold the advantage in both the drivers and the manufacturers' championships, but their Vauxhall, Honda and Nissan rivals all believe they can beat the three Mondeo's in rounds nine and ten at Oulton Park on Monday

Rivals aim to topple Ford

James Thompson could be best placed to cause an upset. The Honda star missed four races after his huge accident at Brands Hatch and lags well down the championship order. However, this means that unlike the Fords and Honda's Gabriele Tarquini, he will not have to carry success ballast. Better still, Thompson was a dominant force when the BTCC last raced on the Oulton Island layout in September 1999.

"I think our car will be good again there this year," he said. "Obviously having only recorded two finishes so far I'm in a difficult position. I'm fired up to win races for Honda, but being 69 points behind, I've got a lot of work to do."

Vauxhall's Jason Plato suffered badly from the effects of success ballast in the last round at Knockhill. After ruling the roost at Thruxton, all three Vectra's lagged behind in Scotland. However, their poor run in the last race means that they will be out of the heavyweight league at Oulton and Plato believes this could be crucial.

"The ballast seems to affect us harder so without any extra weight we should have a good weekend," he said. "It will be hardest for the weight carriers out of the Island hairpin because the exit is uphill and that's where we could have an advantage.

"We're also getting a new engine development for the Oulton weekend and that will help a lot."

The other potential thorn in Ford's side is Independent star Matt Neal. Despite leading the way in several pre-season tests, the Team Dynamics Nissan driver had a low-key start to the season, finally coming good with a pair of top five finishes at Knockhill two weeks ago.

"We've not had a lot of luck so far this season, but I think Knockhill was a turning point for us," said Neal. "The competition for a win has never been stiffer but I still think we can stick one on the manufacturer teams.

"Everyone is pushing very hard but if everything comes together then we can do it. If we do, the beers will be on me again!"

Ford's Alain Menu and Rickard Rydell currently share the championship lead, with their team-mate Anthony Reid a further two points adrift. The best non-Ford driver is Vauxhall number one Yvan Muller, seven points behind Menu and Rydell.

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