VX Racing heads to Brands Hatch for rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship, with Yvan Muller just one point ahead of team mate James Thompson at the top of the drivers' championship, and with the team facing some tough decisions on race strategy.
Despite establishing a clear lead in the team, manufacturers' and drivers' championships in the early rounds, VX Racing's advantage has been steadily eroded in the last two race weekends. The chasing pack is closing in on Muller and Thompson, and tension is mounting at the season draws closer to the final round.
Some teams and drivers have adopted race tactics that use the reverse grid ruling to their advantage; purposely finishing tenth in the first race to secure pole position for the second race. VX Racing now faces a tough dilemma – to continue racing to win in every race, at the risk of a poor grid position for race two and the potential of a smaller overall points haul, or to adopt a similar strategy to its rivals and exploit the rules to concentrate on winning races two and three. While the latter strategy may not be what fans expect from VX Racing, it has proven to be the most successful strategy for points scoring and may ultimate determine the outcome of the championship.
Stuart Harris, Motorsport Manager, Vauxhall Motors says, "The 2004 season has, so far, been one of the most competitive and VX Racing has had to work hard every race weekend to maintain our lead. The most important result of this has to be the quality of the racing. Should VX Racing be looking at revising its race strategies? It's a difficult call. We feel that racing for ninth and tenth places in race one short-changes the fans. We also have two drivers vying for the title and the pressure is on them – both are hungry for another championship title. Every race counts, they need to be taking as many points as possible."
Muller goes to Brands Hatch after a frustrating weekend at Knockhill. "It seems that politics rather than driving is winning at the moment," comments the aggrieved Frenchman. "Everyone is doing everything they can to stop Vauxhall winning the championship for the fourth year in a row – not just through the rules but also because of the driving standards. At Knockhill there was some controversial moves, but they are just ignored. If I can win, I will. I am still leading the championship and I will just do the best job I can. "
Thompson is focused on the battle for points at Brands Hatch, adding, "It is very close between me and Yvan – there is just one point in it, but we're certainly not safe. If the others keep getting the results they are going to catch us. We have to get the results and score as many points as we can. The decision on strategy is a difficult one to make as neither Yvan or I can really afford to lose any points."
VX Racing young gun, 22 year-old Luke Hines, driving the third Vauxhall Astra Coupé, is looking forward to Brands Hatch. "I am getting closer and closer to James and Yvan all the time," says Hines. "I am aiming to continue performances like that at Brands. The circuit is close to where I live, and so there will be lots of my friends and family there to cheer me on. Last time I was there I got my first win for VX Racing, I'm looking for a repeat of that!"
VX Racing currently tops the team, manufacturers' and drivers' championships and is looking to extend its lead. Whichever strategy the team chooses for Brands Hatch, it is certain to produce exciting action on track as the tension builds and the championship moves into the closing rounds.Published 18 August 2004