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British Touring Car Championship 2002 rounds 19 and 20: Donington Park. Story by TOCA News Team, images by Kelvin Fagan.

A buoyant crowd of 26,500 people witnessed James Thompson crowned the Green Flag 2002 MSA British Touring Car Champion at Donington Park this afternoon, after he took a superb victory in the sprint race and then battled back from early dramas in the feature race to take the final podium position.

Vauxhall Motorsport team mate and championship rival Yvan Muller made sure the battle went right down the wire to the final race of the season, but it was the popular Yorkshireman who, after nine years of pursuing overall BTCC honours, finally made it all count when it mattered.

Enthused Thompson:
"Just fantastic! It's like winning your first ever race and more. It will take a few days to sink in, that's for sure. People forget I've only won one other championship before so this is really special. When you've worked so long and so hard it's nice to finally become the Champion.

Team Halfords' Dan Eaves secured Independents' Cup honours with an emphatic win in the sprint race – a non finish in the feature race rendered irrelevant when rival Aaron Slight for Barwell Motorsport also failed to finish.

Said Eaves:
"We fully expected to win the championship at the start of the season, but it's been a lot more competitive than we first thought! It's been up and down all the way and it looked pretty unassailable coming into this weekend. But it all worked out and I'm over the moon!"

James Kaye tied up Production Class honours with a solid third place finish in the sprint race, the Harrogate-based driver delighted to take his first championship title after finishing Runner-up for two consecutive years.

Sprint Race
James Thompson survived an early tussle with championship rival and Vauxhall Motorsport team mate Yvan Muller and a protracted race-long assault from Honda Racing's Andy Priaulx to convert pole position into his sixth race win of the season. In doing so, Thompson takes a ten point advantage into the feature race and will go head to head with Muller for the overall championship title.

Egg Sport's Matt Neal must have reckoned his chances of scoring another race win – and keeping his championship hopes alive - when he made the best start to head the pack into the first corner. An almighty battle between the top four, Neal, Thompson, Priaulx and Muller was interrupted towards the end of lap one when the safety car was called out to recover the Vauxhall Astra Coupé of leading Independents' Cup runner Aaron Slight. It was not a good start for Barwell Motorsport; the damage to Slight's car, which had been rammed from behind into the first corner, put him out on the spot - putting his participation in the feature race in jeopardy – and team mate Tom Chilton, who'd started from eighth on the grid, was also involved in an incident on the opening lap which pushed him right down the order.

Neal kept his advantage at the restart but it wasn't going to be for long. Suffering with brake problems, he lost the lead to Thompson on lap six and subsequently suffered suspension damage during a brush with Priaulx when the Honda driver dived through to retake the position in the latter stages of the race. Neal battled on to the flag and secured the final podium place, but his championship challenge was over.

The battle for the race win became the province of just two drivers – Thompson and Priaulx. A mesmerising head-to-head was played out as Priaulx tried all he knew to depose Thompson. But with the race win crucial to his title hopes, Thompson was driving sublimely, subsequently taking the chequered flag by a measured 3/10th of a second from the determined Honda driver. MG Sport and Racing's Anthony Reid followed Neal home to take fourth with Muller fifth. The Frenchman was unimpressed by a first lap clash with Thompson which damaged his suspension and must hope for better fortunes in the second race.

David Leslie was a superb sixth overall for Team Petronas Syntium Proton after dramas on the opening lap.

No such dramas for Team Halfords' Dan Eaves, who secured the Independents' Cup win after a great dice with team mate Tim Harvey. Should rival Slight not start the feature race, Eaves will be crowned Champion no matter where he finishes…

The sprint race fighting frenzy was just as hot further down the field in the Production category. Despite having one more round of the championship to go, champagne corks were popping in the Synchro Motorsport camp as James Kaye successfully claimed the BTC Production Drivers' Championship after driving his Honda Civic Type-R home in third. Gary Ayles Motorsport's Gavin Pyper drove a storming race to take his fifth win of the championship but was chased hard by Edenbridge Racing's Norman Simon who took second, only 4/10th of a second later. Kaye's closest rival Simon has now been forced to accept second position overall in the category and Beacon Motorsport's Spencer Marsh will take third.

A jubilant Kaye said:
"I am over the moon! All I wanted to do was just finish. I knew that I only needed to pick up a point to take overall honours so I played it fairly safe. I am very relieved as it has been a long time coming after being Runner-up for two consecutive years. It is fantastic not only for me but for the team. They are a superb bunch – these guys pay for themselves to come motor racing - I have never experienced such unbelievable team spirit and dedication. It has to be recognised really so next year we are hoping to move into the Touring Class."

Poleman Pyper lost his lead to Simon on the first lap and Kaye, who was sitting in third, got off to a bad start and was relegated to sixth. Tech-speed Motorsport's Mark Fullalove jumped into third but a Touring category incident on the first lap resulted in the field being re-grouped under four Safety Car laps. On the re-start Pyper soon took charge of the pack from Simon. Kaye joined the front-runners in third on lap nine. Pyper and Simon were playing cat and mouse for much of the race with the German temporarily taking the lead on lap 16. But Pyper again reversed the positions and led for the remainder of the race. 2002 Production Champion Kaye's front brakes failed during the race so he will no doubt take it easy around the Derbyshire circuit for the feature race, safe in the knowledge that the problem that developed unexpectedly cannot harm his championship standing.

Points collected from the sprint race mean that Edenbridge Racing's Tom Boardman, Team B&Q Jet York City's Jim Edwards Jnr and the speedy Pyper are all out of contention for the overall Production category third place. Spencer Marsh who finished sixth in the sprint race has safely secured this last sought after position. All Production category combatants will re-unite on the field for the feature race for the last time in the 2002 season with nothing to lose and everything to gain to tie up the BTC Production Teams' Championship.

Feature Race
Alan Morrison scored his debut Green Flag BTCC win this afternoon when early leader and team mate Andy Priaulx hit electrical problems when in the lead. Morrison took an easy race win from a resurgent Warren Hughes for MG Sport and Racing, with Thompson fully committed in third - despite the championship battle being over when Muller retired on lap three.

Polesitter Priaulx made a cracking start, as did team mate Morrison who leapt up from sixth on the grid to latch himself onto Priaulx's bumper by the end of the opening lap. Whilst the Honda duo set about making a break from the pack, it was mayhem behind as the gaggle of cars battled for position. A frenetic, but mainly clean, opening lap saw both Thompson and Muller pushed down the order and, in the ensuing charge, Muller sustained suspension damage which forced his retirement on lap two. Although the championship title was now his, Thompson was clearly fired up to finish the season on a high and by the time the pit stops had shaken out, he was lying in fifth position. Engine problems for Egg Sport's Matt Neal, coupled with a successful challenge on Paul O'Neill in the second Egg Sport Astra Coupé, saw Thompson up to third with a handful of laps remaining. And a successful rebuttal of Priaulx's late advances ensured the 2002 Champion ended the day where he belonged, on the winner's podium.

Meanwhile it was all quiet at the front, with Morrison inheriting the race lead when Priaulx went for his pit stop. And while Morrison set about pushing as hard as he could in Priaulx's absence, so the Guernseyman's fortunes turned as he hit a series of electrical engine cut-outs. Relegated down to sixth, Priaulx knew a Honda one-two on the podium was no longer possible but he still pushed Thompson all the way to the flag and finished fourth.

The unstoppable Morrison by now had a sizeable lead over Hughes in second, Hughes having made the most of an early Safety Car period to mix it with the front runners from his lowly 15th position on the grid. Admitting that the race was "so much fun!", Hughes put in a stunning performance to take second at the flag and put MG back on the podium for the final race.

Behind Thompson in third and Priaulx in fourth, O'Neill secured fifth with a typically ebullient drive which saw him overtake Thompson for position at one stage. David Leslie was delighted to take his second sixth position of the afternoon for Team Petronas Syntium Proton.

Team Halfords' Carl Breese rounded out a great weekend by taking his first Independents' Cup win and a tremendous seventh place overall.

Fellow Independents' Cup challengers Barwell Motorsport and Team Atomic Kitten both endured a miserable feature race. Barwell Motorsport mechanics did an incredible job to rebuild Aaron Slight's car after substantial damage in the sprint race, only for Slight to be punted out of the race after just one lap. Team mate Tom Chilton made it no further, contact forcing him into the pit wall at the start of lap two. Team Atomic Kitten's Gareth Howell was also on the receiving end of some over-enthusiastic driving – contact at Coppice forcing his second retirement of the day, whilst team mate Turkington joined Howell in retirement just two laps later.

The feature race produced the most entertaining battle of testosterone against honour we have seen to date in the Production category, with Edenbridge Racing's Norman Simon taking his seventh win, followed by the 2002 BTC Production Drivers' Champion James Kaye in second and Gary Ayles Motorsport's Gavin Pyper in third. Synchro Motorsport proudly and deservedly tied up the BTC Production Teams' Championship.

Kaye commented:
"I am so pleased for the team – they really deserve it and with James Thompson taking the Touring Drivers' Trophy and me the Production, it is a fine day for Yorkshire!"

Poleman Kaye had a great start but it was clear from the off that German Simon would be taking no prisoners. Simon's BMW 320i hounded the rear of Kaye's Honda Civic Type-R as soon as the green light was on and the pair tussled for the entirety of the race with the lead changing hands frequently. The battle which kept spectators on their toes, however, was not just reserved for first place but also for third. Simon's team-mate Tom Boardman held third until lap ten when bronze medallist Spencer Marsh joined the fray and took the position without a backward glance. That was not to remain the case as Gary Ayles Motorsport's Gavin Pyper had been gradually working his way through the pack after starting from the back of the grid and by lap 12 his Alfa 156 was stubbornly sitting third. But Marsh was not prepared to surrender and chased the Scot all the way across the finishing line.

Provisional Sprint Race Results
1 3 James Thompson GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe
2 28 Andy Priaulx GBR Honda Civic Type-R
3 0 Matt Neal GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe
4 11 Anthony Reid GBR MG ZS
5 2 Yvan Muller FRA Vauxhall Astra Coupe
6 15 David Leslie GBR Proton Impian
7 12 Warren Hughes GBR MG ZS
8 20 Phil Bennett GBR Proton Impian
9 5 Dan Eaves GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe
10 27 Alan Morrison GBR Honda Civic Type-R
11 22 Colin Turkington GBR MG ZS
12 17 Tom Chilton GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe
13 23 Carl Breeze GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe
14 57 P Gavin Pyper GBR Alfa 156
15 78 P Norman Simon GER BMW 320i
16 52 P James Kaye GBR Honda Civic Type-R
17 77 P Tom Boardman GBR BMW 320i
18 60 P Mark Fullalove GBR Peugeot 306
19 62 P Spencer Marsh GBR Honda Accord
20 99 P Jim Edwards Jnr GBR Honda Accord
21 63 P Mark Thomas GBR Honda Accord
22 59 P Annie Templeton GBR Peugeot 306
23 81 P Steve Wood GBR Mitsubishi Carisma
DNF 8 Tim Harvey GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe
DNF 29 Paul O'Neill GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe
DNF 56 P Alan Blencowe GBR Alfa 156
DNF 55 P Graham Saunders GBR Alfa 156
DNF 53 P Dave Allan GBR Honda Civic Type-R
DNF 21 Gareth Howell GBR MG ZS
DNF 111 Aaron Slight NZL Vauxhall Astra Coupe

Provisional Feature Race Results
1 27 Alan Morrison GBR Honda Civic Type-R
2 12 Warren Hughes GBR MG ZS
3 3 James Thompson GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe
4 28 Andy Priaulx GBR Honda Civic Type-R
5 29 Paul O'Neill GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe
6 15 David Leslie GBR Proton Impian
7 23 Carl Breeze GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe
8 11 Anthony Reid GBR MG ZS
9 20 Phil Bennett GBR Proton Impian
10 78 P Norman Simon GER BMW 320i
11 52 P James Kaye GBR Honda Civic Type-R
12 57 P Gavin Pyper GBR Alfa 156
13 62 P Spencer Marsh GBR Honda Accord
14 99 P Jim Edwards Jnr GBR Honda Accord
15 77 P Tom Boardman GBR BMW 320i
16 63 P Mark Thomas GBR Honda Accord
17 53 P Dave Allan GBR Honda Civic Type-R
DNF 0 Matt Neal GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe
DNF 8 Tim Harvey GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe
DNF 60 P Mark Fullalove GBR Peugeot 306
DNF 56 P Alan Blencowe GBR Alfa 156
DNF 59 P Annie Templeton GBR Peugeot 306
DNF 22 Colin Turkington GBR MG ZS
DNF 21 Gareth Howell GBR MG ZS
DNF 2 Yvan Muller FRA Vauxhall Astra Coupe
DNF 81 P Steve Wood GBR Mitsubishi Carisma
DNF 17 Tom Chilton GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe
DNF 5 Dan Eaves GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe
DNF 111 Aaron Slight NZL Vauxhall Astra Coupe

GREEN FLAG 2002 MSA BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL STANDINGS
* denotes engine change *= minus 5 points **= minus 10 points etc

BTC Touring Drivers' Championship 2002
3 James Thompson GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe 183***
2 Yvan Muller FRA Vauxhall Astra Coupe 163*
0 Matt Neal GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe 145*
11 Anthony Reid GBR MG ZS 136
28 Andy Priaulx GBR Honda Civic Type-R 116**
12 Warren Hughes GBR MG ZS 110*
15 David Leslie GBR Proton Impian 79
5 Paul O'Neill GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe 77***
27 Alan Morrison GBR Honda Civic Type-R 68*
5 Dan Eaves GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe 43
8 Tim Harvey GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe 43**
21 Gareth Howell GBR MG ZS 32
111 Aaron Slight NZL Vauxhall Astra Coupe 32
22 Colin Turkington GBR MG ZS 29
17 Tom Chilton GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe 14**
20 Phil Bennett GBR Proton Impian 9*****
23 Carl Breeze GBR Peugeot 406 Coupe 8*

BTC Production Drivers' Championship
52 James Kaye GBR Honda Civic Type-R 210
78 Norman Simon GER BMW 320i 180
62 Spencer Marsh GBR Honda Accord 122
57 Gavin Pyper GBR Alfa 156 107****
99 Jim Edwards Jnr GBR Honda Accord 101
77 Tom Boardman GBR BMW 320i 98
56 Alan Blencowe GBR Alfa 156 76
60 Mark Fullalove GBR Peugeot 306 69
53 Dave Allan GBR Honda Civic Type-R 61
63 Mark Thomas GBR Honda Accord 61
55 Graham Saunders GBR Alfa 156 60
51 Robert Collard GBR Renault Clio 34*
59 Annie Templeton GBR Peugeot 306 26
89 Peter Cate GBR Honda Accord 23
81 Steve Wood GBR Mitsubishi Carisma 12
88 John B&Q GBR Honda Accord 0
79 Hyla Breese GBR Vauxhall Astra Coupe - 16****

Kelvin Fagan, our BTCC photographer, has photographs from every round of the 2002 championship for sale - send us an email for your exact requirements.

2002 BTCC season calendar
30/03 - 01/04 - Brands Hatch GP by KF
20/04 - 21/04 - Oulton Park by KF
05/05 - 06/05 - Thruxton by KF
01/06 - 03/06 - Silverstone by KF
21/06 - 23/06 - Mondello Park by KF
13/07 - 14/07 - Croft by KF
27/07 - 28/07 - Snetterton by KF
10/08 - 11/08 - Knockhill by KF
25/08 - 26/08 - Brands Hatch Indy by KF
20/09 - 22/09 - Donington Park by KF


James Thompson won the Sprint and came third in the Feature, which was enough to secure the 2002 championship. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Alan Morrison took his first victory in the BTCC in the Feature race (and 10th in the Sprint). Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Despite the L plate, Warren Hughes managed 2nd place in the Feature (7th in the Sprint). Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Andy Priaulx finished 2nd in the Sprint - seen here chasing Thompson. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Matt Neal was 3rd in the Sprint but did not finish the Feature race. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Anthony Reid was 4th in the Sprint but only 8th in the Feature, despite huge support. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Carl Breeze was a fine 7th in the Peugeot 406. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Colin Turkington managed 11th overall in the Sprint for Team Atomic Kitten. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Simon and Kaye battled it out to the end. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. MG undoubtedly win the championship for best grid girls. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Morrison was delighted - hopefully this is a sign of things to come from the Honda team in 2003. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Vauxhall had it all their own way in 2002 - their second year of dominance. Things should change in 2003. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. If you live in the UK, and you have not yet been to a BTCC meeting, you really should try to go in 2003 - the racing is first class. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Donington Park 2003. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Donington Park 2003. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Donington Park 2003. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Donington Park 2003. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Donington Park 2003. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image. Donington Park 2003. Image by Kelvin Fagan. Click here for a larger image.
 

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