BTCC: Donington report

Donington Park, 8/4/96 Series newcomers Audi and Frank Biela blitzed the opposition at Donington Park this afternoon (Mon), winning both opening rounds of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship at a canter. It was a magnificent...

Donington Park, 8/4/96 Series newcomers Audi and Frank Biela blitzed the opposition at Donington Park this afternoon (Mon), winning both opening rounds of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship at a canter. It was a magnificent British debut for the team and underlined the superiority of the four-wheel-drive Audi A4 over its two-wheel-drive rivals. Biela's closest challenger throughout the weekend was 1991 British Touring Car Champion Will Hoy, whose Renault Laguna finished second in both races. Reigning Touring Car World Cup Champion Biela stamped his authority on proceedings from the start of round one, the superior traction of his Audi leaving the others -- notably pole position man Rickard Rydell (Volvo) -- trailing in his wake. As Rydell fought to claw back Biela's advantage on the opening lap, he lost control at the Old Hairpin and spun in front of the battling David Leslie (Honda) and Kelvin Burt (Volvo) -- both Rydell and Leslie were sidelined by the ensuing collision. The TOCA Safety Car controlled the race for three laps while the debris was cleared. Hoy, whose Williams-run Renault was fortunate to make the race after a last-minute engine change, relieved Burt of second place on the second lap, the Volvo man slipping to fourth moments later as Hoy's Renault team-mate Alain Menu followed him through. When the Safety Car was withdrawn, Biela again opened out an advantage on his pursuers and, though both Hoy and Menu shadowed him all the way to the chequered flag, the Audi man never looked in danger. He finished just over a second ahead of Hoy, who in turn had a second's advantage over Menu. Biela smashed the circuit lap record by more than a second on the way to his victory. Burt came under pressure in the late stages from reigning British Touring Car Champion John Cleland, whose Vauxhall Vectra performed encouragingly on its race debut, but held on for fourth. On Cleland's tail in sixth was Biela's Audi running mate John Bintcliffe, making a sensible BTCC debut. There was drama in the Ford camp as Paul Radisich survived a first- lap off-track excursion only to collide with his spinning team-mate Steve Robertson on lap six -- both Mondeos were out on the spot. Biela once again got away swiftest in round two, this time from pole position, with Hoy outdragging front-row man Rydell for second off the line. The Swede maintained third ahead of Bintcliffe and Burt. The top four kept well in touch throughout the 18 laps of the race but maintained the status quo as Biela romped to a near two-second victory over Hoy. The drive of the race came from Menu, forced to start from the near the back of the grid with a 10-second penalty after a ride-height infringement in qualifying. By lap 10 the Swiss star had clawed his way up to seventh, only for his brave effort to come to nothing four laps later with engine problems. A three-way battle for seventh place between Radisich and the two BMWs of Roberto Ravaglia and Jo Winkelhock culminated in a last- lap clash at Melbourne which saw Winkelhock sidelined. Heading for rounds three and four of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, at Brands Hatch on April 21, Biela enjoys a seven-point championship lead over Hoy. RESULTS Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, round 1 21 laps -- 52.50 miles 1 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, 38m 33.13s, 81.70mph/131.49kmh; 2 Will Hoy (GB), Renault Laguna, +1.19s; 3 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, +2.14s; 4 Kelvin Burt (GB), Volvo 850, +12.27s; 5 John Cleland (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +12.93s; 6 John Bintcliffe (GB), Audi A4, +13.63s; 7 Roberto Ravaglia (It), BMW 320i, +20.54s; 8 Jo Winkelhock (Ger), BMW 320i, +21.72s; 9 James Kaye (GB), Honda Accord, +32.72s; 10 James Thompson (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +33.13s. Total Cup Privateers: Robb Gravett (GB), Ford Mondeo, +1m 00.98s. Fastest lap: Biela, 1m 37.79s, 92.03mph/148.11kmh (record). Pole position: Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo 850, 1m 36.795s. Round 2. 18 laps -- 45.00 miles 1 Biela, 29m 51.158s, 90.44mph/145.55kmh; 2 Hoy, +1.941s; 3 Rydell, +3.678s; 4 Bintcliffe, +4.519s; 5 Burt, +13.589s; 6 Cleland, +14.337s; 7 Ravaglia, +28.413s; 8 Paul Radisich (NZ), Ford Mondeo, +34.910s; 9 Tim Harvey (GB), Peugeot 406, +37.343s; 10 James Kaye, +42.414s. Total Cup Privateers: Richard Kaye (GB), Vauxhall Cavalier, +53.191s. Fastest lap: Biela, 1m 38.207s, 91.64mph/147.48kmh. Pole position: Biela, 1m 36.927s. CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS Drivers: 1 Biela, 31 points; 2 Hoy, 24; 3 Burt, 14; 4 Bintcliffe, 13; =5 Cleland & Rydell, 11. Manufacturers: 1 Audi, 30; 2 Renault, 24; 3 Volvo, 20; 4 Vauxhall, 16; 5 BMW, 12; =6 Honda & Peugeot, 8; 8 Ford, 5. Total Cup Privateers: 1 Richard Kaye, 25; 2 Lee Brookes (GB), Toyota Carina, 24.

-- Official BTCC website: Best in British Motor Sport http://www.demon.co.uk/racing

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