Yvan Muller won rounds five and six of the British Touring Car Championship yesterday, although his second win came only because of Vauxhall team orders, imposed on its British driver Jason Plato, who dutifully relinquished a comfortable lead.
The Vauxhall team manager, Roland Dane, explained that his drivers are working as a team to win the championship and that even though Plato has made the better start to the season and had more points going into the race, contracts are in place which stipulate that Frenchman is the team's No 1 driver.
"I'm a paid driver," said a philosophical Plato. "I do a job for a manufacturer."
Plato had led the feature race away from pole and pulled away from Muller in the early laps, before slowing to allow the Frenchman to pass him.
Ford's championship leader, Alain Menu, took third place to keep Muller behind in the points race after Vincent Radermecker, in the third Vauxhall, spun out of the race when a rear tyre blew at the 140mph Church corner. Ford's Anthony Reid survived his own last lap blow-out and struggled across the finish line in fourth place.
Muller won the sprint race on merit, and comparatively easily, from pole position. A good start gave him the lead immediately and though the second-placed Reid felt that he could live with the Frenchdriver's pace over the opening laps, Muller's advantage became more comfortable as the race progressed.
Further back, Plato was in the thick of the action, having started the race in sixth place. His first victim was his team-mate Radermecker, whose car was not handling perfectly after a knock from Menu's Ford.
Once into fifth place Plato embarked on a long hard battle to overcome Menu's staunch defence. After seven laps of constant move and counter-move the pair touched, Menu spun and Radermecker nipped ahead of Plato again. Before long, however, Plato had moved in front of Radermecker again before hunting down Rickard Rydell's Ford, setting a new lap record.
With just a lap to go Plato passed Rydell's wilting Mondeo to take third place. Plato and Menu were both fined for their driving after the race, but the results stood.