Sprint race: Muller in a class of his own

The action came fast and furious, but Yvan Muller was in a class of his own as he stroked his Vauxhall Astra Coupe to victory in the British Touring Car Championship sprint race at Oulton Park.

Sprint race: Muller in a class of his own

The Frenchman got a massive break at the start when team mate Jason Plato, who had qualified second fastest to poleman Muller, had clutch failure and dropped to the rear of the field as he cut his engine and refired it.

Meanwhile, a sensational getaway from the rear-wheel-drive Lexus of Kurt Luby carried the Lancastrian from fifth on the grid into second. Luby held on in a cussed defence for three laps, before James Thompson finally worked his Egg Sport Vauxhall ahead into Old Hall Corner on lap four.

By that stage Muller was seven seconds in front and there was little Thompson could do.

"I tried to crack on as quickly as possible, but once we got into the backmarkers it levelled itself out," said Thompson.

Muller, worried about braking problems, allowed 'Thommo' to cut the gap to around three seconds but held the advantage at that level.

"It's very hard on the brakes at this circuit," he said. "After four laps I had a long pedal, so I had to look after the brakes and slow down. There was no point having a seven-second lead. But I'm really worried about the brakes for the second race [which is twice as long]."

Plato, driving without a clutch, made it up to third as Luby eventually plummeted to last.

"I started to close on James," said Plato, "but for some reason at Knickerbrook the master switch decided to turn itself off. We can't change the clutch without taking the engine out, so I'm going to have to do the feature race without the clutch. Thank God it's a rolling start!"

Behind fourth man Phil Bennett, who was tapped out of the way by Egg team mate Thompson at Cascades on the third lap, Steve Soper's Peugeot just managed to hold off the charging Tim Harvey, going great guns on his BTCC return in the JSM Alfa, for fifth.

The Production class had three different leaders. Poleman Simon Harrison was passed at Cascades on the first lap by Gavin Pyper, then got railroaded down to fourth. Harrison's HTML Peugeot team mate Roger Moen then caught up Pyper's GA Janspeed Alfa, passing him on lap eight in a lurid wheel-locking manoeuvre at Knickerbrook in which he clattered into the Scotsman and forced him onto the old circuit at the chicane.

That allowed the recovering Harrison back up to second, but the feisty Pyper soon repassed the 306 to take an excellent second as Norwegian Moen pulled clear. The scrap between Pyper and Harrison also allowed the ballast-laden Honda Accord of series leader James Kaye to catch up and make it a three-way scrap at the finish.

Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 16 laps in 23m47.933s
James Thompson (Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 23m50.258s
Jason Plato (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 23m51.184s
Phil Bennett (Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 23m56.854s
Steve Soper (Peugeot 406 Coupe) 24m10.118s
Tim Harvey (JSM Alfa Romeo 147) 24m10.591s
Dan Eaves (Peugeot 406 Coupe) 24m15.730s
Kurt Luby (ABG Motorsport Lexus IS200) 24m16.547s
Plato 1m28.478s


Roger Moen (HTML Peugeot 306) 15 laps in 23m21.805s
Gavin Pyper (GA Janspeed Alfa Romeo 156) 23m26.870s
Simon Harrison (HTML Peugeot 306) 23m27.514s
James Kaye (Barwell Motorsport Honda Accord) 23m27.918s
Gareth Howell (GR Motorsport Ford Focus) 23m34.391s
Peter Cate (Barwell Motorsport Honda Accord) 23m37.124s
Pyper 1m32.234s

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Qualifying: Muller takes pole double

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