Three champions share spoils on opening day

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The Independent Online

Former champions from the two big teams in the series took wins as the British Touring Car Championship kicked off its 2004 season at Thruxton.

Former champions from the two big teams in the series took wins as the British Touring Car Championship kicked off its 2004 season at Thruxton.

A new three-race format, with the top 10 drivers from race one lining up in reverse order on the grid for race two, stirred the mix nicely and Jason Plato (the 2001 champion) managed to win for the series' newcomer SEAT. The other two wins went to Vauxhall's title favourites James Thompson (the 2002 champion) and reigning champion Yvan Muller, who takes an early points lead.

Thompson's win was the most straightforward. He had qualified on pole with the best-ever lap for this generation of touring cars at the Hampshire track.

Plato and Muller fought out the second race. Plato was inch perfect in the SEAT, while Muller was temporarily distracted by a severe vibration, which he initially thought was a tyre about to blow. Michael Bentwood took an excellent third in his Vauxhall.

Plato's win gave him pole for the final race, but also 42kg of success ballast. Muller soon grabbed first place, and eventually Plato dropped to fourth, behind Anthony Reid in the impressive MG ZS and Thompson, who had stormed through from the back of the grid.

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