Charging Thompson Takes ETCC Glory

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James Thompson drove his Honda Accord through the field in the second race to take the S2000 European Touring Car Cup.

The opening race was dominated by Hungarian Norbert Michelisz, who took the victory (and ten points) from the pole position he earned yesterday, grabbing fastest lap along the way on a wet Circuit of Braga track.

The only competitor who seemed to have the pace to match the SEAT driver was Franz Engstler, who eventually finished second, 0.4 seconds behind. Thompson fought his way up from a sixth place grid slot to take the final spot on the podium, ahead of defending class champion, Michel Nykjær in fourth.

Despite the wet track, attrition in the small field was low, Per Poulsen being the only retirement after beeching his Honda Accord in the turn one gravel trap.

The second race was a very different affair.

Duarte Felix da Costa, starting from pole by viture of his eighth place race one finish and a reverse grid got a clean start and led the pack into the opening turns, a sharp right, followed by a long left hander.

However, behind him all was not so well.

Into the first corner Harry Vaulkhard tipped Francisco Carvalho's petrol SEAT into a spin, the Portuguese sliding across the track, over the grass and back onto the track. Right ahead of the rest of field.

The carnage was predictable, Michelisz and Jose Monroy were tangled together, Monroy's Chevrolet dragging both bumpers as it clipped Nykjær's Lacetti, the Dane almost immediately retiring, while Monroy limped back to the pits.

The melee left da Costa in his Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet with a clear lead that he promptly threw away spinning out of the lead on the second lap, managing to rejoin, but no longer a challenger for the lead.

That handed Carvalho, who had escaped relatively unscathed from the start crash, the lead before his first lap aggressor Vaulkhard took the lead. Engstler and Thompson, who had dropped to eighth after the crash, soon followed passed Carvalho, into second and third as Engstler, Thompson, Michelisz and Vaulkhard all seemed to be converging on the same points' tally.

These calculations only grew more complex when Thompson passed Engstler for second, the reverse of their race one result.

However, it all became academic as Vaulkhard ran wide onto the wet grass, sliding helplessly into the tyre wall, and while, like da Costa before him, he was able to rejoin, he could only climb back as high as sixth.

That freed Thompson to take the victory, Engstler second (a position he also took overall) ahead of Tomas Engstrom in another Accord. Michelisz finished fifth, taking third overall.

As well as taking the individual title Thompson's point haul combined with Vaulkhard's was enough to give Britain victory in the Nation's Cup competition.

In the only other competitive class, the three strong Production class Latvian Marcis Birkens took both race wins in his Honda Civic Type-R, the first ever Baltic driver to win an ETCC title.

I thought that I could maybe finish in the top three of the first race and then try everything in the second. And it worked, although a lot of credit for this goes to my engineer who led me towards the right tyre choice. I usually go for the wrong one,” said Thompson. “I also have to thank the team, because they have done an amazing job. The car was perfect in both races. Quick and consistent.”

“Everything worked very well until the second race. Then we made the wrong tyre choice. It was a shame, but I'm happy anyway,” explained Michelisz. “This was a great opportunity and I am proud of myself.”

Meanwhile Engstler looked back on his lucky escape in the second race. “I was also lucky to escape the incident at the start of the second race. When I rejoined after swerving on the grass I said to myself: let's hope that nobody hits me now!”

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About author
James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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