VX Racing heads to Donington Park for the final three races of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship, and the weekend that will decide the 2004 champion. James Thompson leads the drivers' championship, just four points ahead of team mate and reigning champion Yvan Muller, but with a maximum of 52 points on offer both will be racing for victory.
After a mid-season lull, the VX Racing team returned to race-winning form in the last round at Snetterton, claiming the team's first victory since Mondello Park in June. Thompson left the race weekend in the lead for the championship and in front of Muller for the first time this season.
Tension is mounting as the season reaches its climax and with just four points between Thompson and Muller it couldn't get any closer. The second race at Donington will be Thompson's 250th in the BTCC and with the Yorkshireman set to leave the VX Racing team at the end of the season, will he be going out on a high? Thompson says "It was good to get the results last time and it means I go into the final weekend at Donington ahead. It is very close between Yvan and I, and basically who ever wins at Donington wins the championship. I just hope that it's decided on track and not due to mechanical failure or an accident. It would be a shame if that were to happen, but we will just have to wait and see. One thing is for sure - it's going to be fast and furious!"
This time last year Muller had a 29 point advantage going into the final round, but can the Frenchman come back from behind to emerge victorious and be the first driver to retain the BTCC title in the modern touring car era? Muller comments, "There has been hardly any difference between me and Jimmy all season, so it is not surprising that the title fight has gone to the last race weekend of the year. Of course I will do my best, just like I always do, but it may be that something out of my control decides the outcome of the championship. "
VX Racing young gun Luke Hines driving the third Vauxhall Astra Coupe is involved in a battle for points for the team, but also to remain ahead of his nearest rival Tom Chilton. "My results at the last race weekend were good for the team and good for me," says Hines. "I'm aiming for more of the same at Donington Park. My personal goal is to score as many points as I can and finish as high up the drivers' championship, but also VX Racing and Vauxhall are close to securing the team and manufacturers' titles, so I'll be going for it."
VX Racing currently tops the team championship - 167 points ahead of SEAT Sport UK, it also heads the manufacturers' championship by 133 points in front of Honda and is aiming to secure these titles and the drivers' championship for the fourth consecutive year.
Last year at Donington was the penultimate round, and after missing free practice, Yvan had a disastrous qualifying session due to a rare mechanical failure and started race one from 26th on the grid - he drove with skill, experience and determination to finish third in the first race and to win in the second.
Luke Hines recorded the fastest Production Class lap in both races at Donington last year with the quickest time of 1:19.097 in the second race.
The second race at Donington with be James' 250th BTCC race.
Look out for Yvan in the November edition of Evo, he tested historic touring cars from the early '60's to the early '90's at Brands Hatch for a special feature in the magazine.
The VX Racing Guide to Donington Park
"Donington is a technical circuit. You really need a stable car for the quick corners. You can go for a hard suspension because it is not very bumpy, but you can't go too far with the suspension because to be fast you have to use the kerbs. It is a fast track that is good for over taking. I prefer the shorter circuit, and that's the one we'll be racing on. For viewing, I think the best place for spectators to watch is either Redgate or Craner Curves, there is always action there."
Yvan Muller, VX Racing, No.1 Vauxhall Astra CoupePublished 18 September 2004