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Vauxhall PrescottIt’s been nearly four years since Vauxhall withdrew from BTCC, but just to prove that the company still supports British motorsport, it’s entered a completely standard Astra VXR in the 2013 MSA Hillclimb Leaders Championship – and it’s already turning into a giant-killer.

Driven by motoring journalists David Finlay and Alisdair Suttie, with Simon Hucknall, Vauxhall’s PR Manager in reserve, the Astra is running joint seventh overall out of a 34-strong field after just three rounds. Since the championship started the completely standard Astra VXR came within six tenths of beating a 425PS Sierra Cosworth at Prescott, and set a new class record at a damp Harewood, with Finlay and Suttie coming first and second respectively ahead of a Porsche 911.

While the Astra is only a 1998cc car, because it’s turbocharged it has to compete in an over-2000cc class. What’s more, its rivals in the Road-Going Series Production Cars class can be modified to produce more power, whereas the Astra has to remain stock.

Why? The Scottish-based media duo were keen to prove that their Astra could ‘win on Sunday and commute on Monday’, so it not only had to be competitive on track, but also comfortable and reliable on the road; unlike many of its rivals the car is driven to all meetings and has already racked up 2,500 miles in the last month between Scotland and England.

‘We wanted to prove that motorsport doesn’t have to cost a fortune, if you choose the right car and the right championship,’ said David. ‘Apart from the timing strut and stickers, our press Astra VXR is as it came off the line, and that means it’s tractable, durable and a perfect companion for some of the long journeys from Scotland to the southern-English tracks.’

Alisdair added: ‘What sets it apart on the track is the way it feeds 280PS and 400 Newtons of torque through its mechanical limited slip diff. The traction out of tight bends is truly impressive and is scoring us a big advantage over more powerful cars.’

Vauxhall launched the Astra VXR last year, when it instantly became not only the most powerful car in its class, but also one with the highest specific torque output. The VXR’s chassis is equally competitive, with a mechanical limited-slip differential, HiPerStrut front suspension, and bespoke brakes, spring and damper settings. Prices start at £27,010 on the road.

‘Vauxhall is pleased to support David and Alisdair in this year’s Leaders Championship,’ said Simon Hucknall, PR Manager for Vauxhall & Vx Motorsports. ‘I think their sights were set quite low before Round One, but already they’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations on track, while enjoying the reliability and comfort of the car on the road. Vauxhall wishes them all the best for the next 11 rounds!’

The Astra will be competing at the next MSA Hillclimb Leaders Championship round at Gurston Down in Wiltshire (http://www.gurstondown.org/calendar/) on Sunday, May 26, with practice on Saturday, May 25.

Full details of the Avon Tyres/TTC Group MSA Hillclimb Leaders Championship can be found at http://www.britishhillclimb.co.uk/.

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