Thompson takes title by a single point
James Thompson was crowned BTCC champion for the second time at Donington Park, edging out VX Racing teammate Yvan Muller by just a single point in a nail-biting finish to the 2004 season.
Yvan Muller won the third race of the day – his first victory since Mondello Park – and Jason Plato was second with Thompson in third. It is a result that would have seen the Vauxhall drivers tied on points, and Muller take the championship on race wins over the year. However, Thompson set the fastest lap of the race on lap three, which was enough to give him an extra point and championship glory.
Tom Chilton started the race from pole position but it was Muller who led away from the grid. Thompson got a good start but there was no space in front of him and he was squeezed on to the grass and forced to settle for fourth position. At the end of the first lap, Muller led from Dan Eaves, Plato, Thompson and Tom Chilton.
Both Plato and Thompson passed Chilton and the VX driver set the fastest lap in the process. Plato was then gaining on Muller, until his task was completed by the safety car that came out on lap five to clear up after a coming together between Gavin Pyper and Michael Bentwood. After the restart, Plato proceeded to cling to the back of Muller’s Astra for the remainder of the race.
The outgoing champion defended from Plato resiliently, but could do nothing to retain the title as Thompson sat in third with the fastest lap of the race under his belt. The three champions pulled away at the front and Thompson was content to let Plato do the work on Muller. The Seat driver tried every route possible to pass his old arch-rival, and there was contact between the pair on the penultimate lap at the chicane. Muller held on, but it was Thompson that had done enough to win the championship.
A jubilant Thompson emerged from his Astra in parc ferme to cheers from the VX Racing team, before saying: “We did what we needed to do. It couldn’t have been closer at the end, but it was a good race and an even better result. I’ve had a fantastic year and it’s great to have the title back.”
Thompson ended the season on 274 points, with Muller scoring 273. Plato was third on 224, followed by Reid and Neal on 213 and 181 respectively.
Vauxhall clinched a record fourth consecutive Manufacturers Championship, and claimed the Teams Championship with VX Racing.
Anthony Reid was the winning Independent driver, 12 points ahead of his WSR teammate Colin Turkington. Dan Eaves was third with Matt Neal fourth.