Vauxhall's John Cleland improved his overall lead in the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch this afternoon ( Sun) with a dominant victory in the second of the day's two races.
Having earlier finished third behind Renault's Will Hoy and Volvo's Rickard Rydell in round 18 of the championship, Cleland left the Kent circuit with a 40-point advantage over Swede Rydell in the drivers' championship.
The first of the day's two 30-lap sprints was effectively decided on the opening lap as 1991 Champion Hoy underlined his improved qualifying pace to outdrag front-row men Cleland and Rydell on the run up to the Druids hairpin. It was a masterly manoeuvre from the Renault driver and he was quick to capitalise on his advantage -- pulling out a healthy lead that, although reduced to less than half a second by the time the chequered flag fell, was never seriously challenged.
It was Hoy's first win for the Renault team and his first BTCC race victory since 1992, when he drove for Toyota.
Rydell was Hoy's closest rival, the Volvo man muscling past Cleland for second on the opening lap. Cleland had made the better start of the pair as, once again, Rydell failed to capitalise on the advantage of pole position.
Once through into second, Rydell was not to be robbed of it by Cleland, who stuck to the Volvo's bootlid throughout. Hoy's Renault team-mate Alain Menu was fourth, making up for the disadvantage of a seventh-slot grid position with a fine start and early fight past BMW's Johnny Cecotto.
Cecotto underlined BMW's return to form by finishing fifth, well in touch with the leading quartet.
Visiting South African Touring Car Champion Mike Briggs, deputising for the injured James Thompson at Vauxhall, was an impressive sixth on his British racing debut, ahead of Tim Harvey (Volvo) and former Grand Prix star Derek Warwick (Alfa).
Handling problems cost Kiwi Paul Radisich (Ford) an early sixth place; he finished 14th at the flag.
Rydell made no mistake second time around, leading away from pole -- his 11th of the season -- to head Cleland and Hoy on the first lap of round 19. The Swede built up a healthy lead very quickly, but Cleland soon set about reducing the gap and, by lap 12, was right on the Volvo's tail, with Hoy in close attendance in third slot.
Entering Clearways for the 15th time, Rydell got out of line, was nudged from behind by Cleland, and half-spun out of the lead. Cleland seized the opportunity to head into a lead he was never to lose, with Hoy following through to assume second place.
Rydell was fortunate to restart in third place, and he finished well ahead of reigning Champion Gabriele Tarquini, putting in Alfa's most convincing challenge of the year and taking fourth place.
Briggs fought through to fifth after the demise of the BMWs of Cecotto and David Brabham and the Ford of Radisich, with Patrick Watts a strong sixth for Peugeot and Harvey seventh again for Volvo.
Victor in both rounds in the Total Cup for Privateers was Matt Neal ( Ford), whose points lead in the class now looks unassailable.
With a further six rounds to run, Cleland's 40-point advantage over Rydell is by no means secure, but with Menu failing to score in round 19 due to mechanical problems, he at least has one fewer title rival to worry about.
RESULTS 1995 Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship, round 18 Brands Hatch, Kent, 13/08/95 30 laps -- 36.00 miles 1 Will Hoy (GB), Renault Laguna, 23m 51.57s, 90.80mph; 2 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo 850 20V, ~0.46s; 3 John Cleland (GB), Vauxhall Cavalier 16V, ~0.70s; 4 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, ~1.18s; 5 Johnny Cecotto (Venezuela), BMW 318i, ~1.61s; 6 Mike Briggs (South Africa), Vauxhall Cavalier 16V, ~9.70s; 7 Tim Harvey (GB), Volvo 850 20V, ~13.25s; 8 Derek Warwick (GB), Alfa Romeo 155, ~17.51s; 9 Jul ian Bailey (GB), Toyota Carina E, ~17.71s; 10 James Kaye (GB), Honda Accord, ~20.54s. Total Cup Privateers: Matt Neal (GB), Ford Mondeo Ghia. Fastest lap: Rydell, 46.90s, 92.38mph. Pole position: Rydell, 46.643s, 92.89mph.
Round 19 30 laps -- 36.00 miles 1 Cleland, 23m 46.09s, 91.15mph; 2 Hoy, ~7.84s; 3 Rydell, ~9.63s; 4 Gabriele Tarquini (It), Alfa Romeo 155, ~10.02s; 5 Briggs, ~10.36s; 6 Patrick Watts (GB), Peugeot 405, ~18.96s; 7 Harvey, ~20.64s; 8 Kaye, ~24.63s; 9 Tim Sugden (GB), Toyota Carina E, ~24.89s; 10 David Leslie (GB), Honda Accord, ~31.95s. Total Cup Privateers: Neal. Fastest lap: Cleland, 46.82s, 92.54mph. Pole position: Rydell, 46.646s, 92.89mph.
Championship positions Drivers: 1 Cleland, 282 points; 2 Rydell, 242; 3 Menu, 214; 4 Harvey, 145; 5 Paul Radisich (NZ/Ford), 128; 6 James Thompson (GB/Vauxhall), 124; 7 Hoy, 111. Manufacturers: 1 Vauxhall, 322; 2 Volvo, 305; 3 Renault, 296; 4 Ford, 185; 5 Toyota, 130; 6 BMW, 121; 7 Alfa Romeo, 92; 8 Peugeot, 88; 9 Honda, 80. Total Cup Privateers: 1 Neal, 312.
Next round: Snetterton, 28/08/95 -- Stephen M Baines
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