NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Brands Hatch, Kent 16/05/97
Championship leader Alain Menu topped the time sheets after six hours of official TOCA testing at Brands Hatch today in preparation for rounds seven and eight of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship which will be staged at the Kent circuit on Sunday with live television coverage on BBC Grandstand.
The Swiss star, who has won four of the first six rounds of the 1997 Auto Trader Championship, continued to set the early season pace in his victorious Renault Laguna -- his best time was more than a second under the existing lap.
Underlining the increasing competitive of the series, Menu was chased hard by the Honda Accords of James Thompson and Gabriele Tarquini with his Williams Renault team-mate, Jason Plato, fourth fastest ahead of the impressive Nissan of Anthony Reid and Rickard Rydell's Volvo S40. In all, no fewer than 15 cars were covered by less than a single second.
Next Sunday's two 38-lap races on the tight Brands Hatch Indy circuit mark the start of BBC Television's long-awaited live and uninterrupted coverage of the action packed series. Indeed, the entire BBC Grandstand programme will be presented by Steve Rider direct from the pit lane.
However, the BBC coverage got off to a somewhat inauspicious start this afternoon when Rider, recording an introduction to Sunday's broadcast, spun off the circuit into a gravel safety trap when driving Kelvin Burt's Volvo S40. Thankfully neither car nor driver was injured in the incident. A chasened Rider said afterwards: 'I feel like a proper racing driver when the car's full of gravel and I'm making lame excuse like blaming cold tyres!'
OFFICIAL TIMES Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, TOCA Brands Hatch Test
1 Alain Menu (Swi) Renault Laguna, 0 minutes: 44.556 seconds 2 James Thompson (GB) Honda Accord, 0:44.639secs 3 Gabriele Tarquini (I) Honda Accord, 0:44.646secs 4 Jason Plato (GB), Renault Laguna, 0:44.714secs 5 Anthony Reid (GB), Nissan Primera, 0:44.769secs ------ BTCC97 www.demon.co.uk/racing/