VX Racing heads to Knockhill in Scotland for rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship, with Yvan Muller just three points clear of team mate James Thompson at the top of the drivers’ championship.
The last BTCC round held at Knockhill was in August 2002. Omitted from the touring car calendar in 2003, the Fife circuit has been reinstated this year, to the delight of the Scottish fans. VX Racing didn’t manage a win two years ago, but both Thompson and Muller claimed podium finishes. This year Knockhill plays host to the seventh race weekend of the season, and as VX Racing heads to bonny Scotland Muller and Thompson, in the sister Vauxhall Astra Coupés, are preparing to battle for points.
Muller goes to Knockhill on the back of a disappointing weekend at Croft. “We didn’t get the results we would have liked at Croft,” comments the charismatic Frenchman. “Just one podium finish out of three races is not up to our usual standard. Plato is playing with the rules to give him the advantage in the second and also the third race, but James and I cannot afford to do that because of the championship situation. In the past I have not had good results at Knockhill, we always seem to struggle with getting the right set-up, and with the balance of the car. I will not be carrying any success ballast in the first race, so hopefully that will help me to qualify well. ”
Thompson also struggled at Croft and, for the first time in almost a year, left the race weekend without a podium finish. The Yorkshireman is determined to get back on track and notch up some more points. “Something wasn’t quite right at Croft and we really struggled for pace. There wasn’t a specific problem, but the set-up and speed were just not there. We have trawled through a lot of data and hopefully we can make amends at Knockhill. It is very close between me and Yvan, but we’re not safe yet. If the others keep getting the results they are going to catch us.”
VX Racing young gun, Luke Hines, driving the third Vauxhall Astra Coupé, is looking forward to Knockhill. “I have never driven a touring car at Knockhill,” says Hines. “My first year in touring cars was in the Production Class in 2003 and Knockhill was not on the calendar then. I think it is going to be quite challenging, it’s very narrow and has lots of hills and dips – quite technical. I’m looking forward to the challenge and hopefully I can score points and maybe get a podium finish.”
VX Racing currently tops the team, manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships and is looking to extend its lead at Knockhill.
Last time at Knockhill… James notched up a second and a fourth place position, while Yvan’s bad luck at the Scottish circuit continued with eighth and ninth place finishes
Luke’s last visit to Knockhill was back in 2001 when he was driving in Formula Ford
Knockhill will be James’ first race as a married man – he tied the knot last weekend and will return from honeymoon to race
Yvan has scored at least one podium finish at every race weekend so far this year
Four is the magic number – but not for James. At Croft, he qualified fourth, and finished all three races in fourth place, only the reverse grid in race two meant that he started from seventh position
Success ballast! Yvan’s most painful memory of Knockhill involves quitting smoking there on 15 August 1999; he subsequently gained 10 kilos in weight!
The VX Racing Guide to Knockhill
“Knockhill is a technical circuit. There are lots of hills and it is very narrow. When you turn in to the first corner you don’t see the apex, so it’s a tricky one. It has a narrow entry and it is difficult to get the breaking right as the track dips away. The best place for action is the chicane; the cars tend to jump from one kerb to the next, so it’s very exciting. The exit is blind, but you have to get on the power quickly for Clark. Taylors hairpin provides an overtaking opportunity, but again exit speed is important, so that you carry as much as you can into the start-finish straight.”
Yvan Muller, VX Racing, No.1 Vauxhall Astra Coupé