NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 30/3/97 Jason Plato made an astonishing Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship debut today (Sun) by claiming pole position for his first two races. Twenty-eight-year-old Plato, who moves up to the BTCC after winning the Renault Spider sports car series last year, beat his vastly more experienced Renault team-mate Alain Menu into second position on the grid for both of tomorrow's (Mon) opening rounds of the championship at Donington Park.

In qualifying for round one, Plato headed Menu -- championship runner-up for the last three years -- by a tenth of a second, then widened the gap still further in the second qualifying session. Both of Plato's pole laps were comfortably quicker than the circuit qualifying record.

Plato's pole stunned not only himself but also his team and the rest of the paddock -- it's the first time in modern BTCC history that a rookie has claimed top spot on his qualifying debut. Said Plato: ''This is a dream come true. It would have been cocky to think I could have started my first BTCC races from pole. I expected Rickard Rydell and Alain Menu to set the pace. It goes without saying that the car is great -- now it's fingers crossed for a good start...''

Menu underlined the Williams-Renault early-season superiority by outpacing all the team's rivals in both sessions to establish a Laguna lock-out of the front row of the grid. Said Menu: ''Obviously it's a very impressive start for Jason. More important is that we are one- two on the grid for both races and it bodes well for the Williams Renault team for the rest of the season.''

Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship Official qualifying, Donington Park 30/3/97 Round 1 1 Jason Plato (GB), Renault Laguna, 1m 36.327s, 93.43mph; 2 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 1m 36.423s; 3 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo S40, 1m 36.517s; 4 James Thompson (GB), Honda Accord, 1m 36.930s; 5 Kelvin Burt (GB), Volvo S40, 1m 37.122s. Round 2 1 Plato, 1m 36.293s, 93.46mph; 2 Menu, 1m 36.420s; 3 Thompson, 1m 36.440s; 4 Rydell, 1m 36.602s; 5 Biela, 1m 37.115s.

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