News from the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship Brands Hatch, 2/4/98

RYDELL AND VOLVO QUICKEST AT BRANDS

Official testing at Brands Hatch today (Thurs) provided the strongest indication yet that this year's Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship will be the closest for several seasons. After two days of timed sessions, seven different manufacturers occupied the top eight places.

Sweden's Rickard Rydell went quickest, his Volvo S40 lapping the Kent track in 44.462 seconds, well inside the qualifying record for the 1.2-mile Indy circuit. James Thompson's Honda was just seven-hundredths of a second slower, with reigning champion Alain Menu third fastest for Renault, just ahead of his team-mate Jason Plato.

Nissan, Vauxhall, Audi and Peugeot all managed to place a driver in the top eight, with Ford the only manufacturer edged out of the top 10.

Today's Brands testing provided the Auto Trader BTCC runners with their final chance for fettling before the championship swoops on the Thruxton circuit next week and preparations begin for Easter Monday's (Apr 13) twin opening races of the season.

* This year's championship for Independent racers will be known as the Autosport Cup, it was announced today. The influential weekly motor sporting magazine is lending its name to the contest and will provide the Independents Champion with an end-of-season test drive with the Vauxhall works team. Leading runner among the Autosport Independents today was Norwegian Tommy Rustad, 13th fastest overall in his Renault.

Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship Official testing / Brands Hatch, Kent / 1&2 April 1998 1 Rickard Rydell SWE Volvo S40 44.462s 97.45mph 2 James Thompson GB Honda Accord 44.530s 3 Alain Menu SWI Renault Laguna 44.632s 4 Jason Plato GB Renault Laguna 44.735s 5 David Leslie GB Nissan Primera 44.779s 6 John Cleland GB Vauxhall Vectra 44.855s 7 Yvan Muller FRA Audi A4 44.859s 8 Tim Harvey GB Peugeot 406 44.892s 9 Derek Warwick GB Vauxhall Vectra 44.919s 10 Peter Kox NL Honda Accord 44.964s

-- BTCC official website www.btcc.co.uk