VICTORY IN RAIN MOVES CLELAND INTO CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD
Thompson second Vauxhall Sport Take Teams' Championship lead Vauxhall Sport driver John Cleland returned to the top of the Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship after taking his Mobil 1-backed Vauxhall Cavalier to a second and a victory in the rain-affected rounds 11 and 12.
Young team-mate James Thompson retired early in round ii with suspension damage but made amends by following Cleland home in round 12, giving Vauxhall Sport the lead in the teams' championship
The afternoon 5 races were interrupted by several red flags as cars crashed out in the treacherous conditions.
Thompson started from second on the grid in both races, and after making a better start than pole position man Alain Menu in round Ii he tried to go around the outside at Druids hairpin. "Menu lust understeered into me and broke my right front wheel, giving me a puncture," explained 21-year old Yorkshireman Thompson. "I then drifted wide at the next corner and I was hit from behind, which broke the rear suspension."
All this action allowed Cleland into second place from fifth place on the grid. As the rain worsened, Cleland fought off the advances of the Volvo of Tim Harvey, but be succumbed on lap nine, just as the red flags were brought out after Tim Sugden hit the barriers and rolled after his windscreen had steamed up.
With the positions for the restart based on the previous lap's positions, Cleland re-started in second, and was able to hold off Harvey and close on leader Alain Menu, setting fastest lap on the way to second.
At the first attempt to start round 11, Thompson stormed into the lead, ahead of Cleland, who started from third on the grid. The red flags fluttered again on lap two after privateer Nigel Smith spun his car to a halt in a dangerous position.
The re-start saw Alain Menu lead from pole position, but the race was stopped once again after championship leader Rickard Rydell inverted his car after the throttle stuck open.
After a stern verbal warning from the Clerk of the Course, the drivers embarked on the fifth start of the day, which saw Cleland rocket into the lead, ahead of Thompson. Despite constant pressure from the Renaults of Menu and Will Hoy and the Volvo of Tim Harvey, the pair completed the first one-two for any team this season.
"The track conditions out there today were very, very) slippery. It's unbelievably difficult to keep a 1000 kg car with 300 bhp running on 9 inch tyres on the track," commented the 42-year-old from Galashiels. "It's been a great day for me much better than last time we were here, but there is a long way to go, we're not even half way through the championship yet. But it's nice to be at the front at the moment.'"
CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: DRIVERS:1st; CLELAND 160 pts, 2nd: Menu 158, 3rd Rydell 147, 4th; Harvey 106, 5th; Radisich 96, 6th; THOMPSON 94
TEAMS:1st; VAUXHALL SPORT 254, 2nd: Volvo 850 Racing 252, 3rd: Williams Renault 188,
-- Stephen M Baines
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