PLATO TOP RUNNER IN TT TESTS
Renault's Jason Plato this afternoon (Thurs) topped the timesheets at Donington Park in official testing for Sunday's (Oct 19) running of Britain's oldest - and richest - race, the RAC Tourist Trophy, the season-closing touring car event which has attracted the cream of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship runners plus top stars from European series.
Plato staked his early claim to the winner-take-all Ukpounds 25,000 TT prize by lapping the Derby circuit's National track layout in 1m 10.773s, nearly half a second quicker than his nearest rival, Volvo-driving Swede Rickard Rydell.
Said 30-year-old Briton Plato: "Since the latter part of the season I have had a real handle on the set-up of the Renault and things just keep getting better and better."
1996 British Touring Car Champion Frank Biela was third quickest for Audi; Sunday's race will be the A4 quattro's British swansong - four-wheel-drive systems are outlawed for the 1998 Auto Trader Championship. Biela finished the day just ahead of the newly crowned champion, Alain Menu, and his Renault. Audi's front-wheel-drive version of its A4 was sixth quickest in the hands of French ace Yvan Muller.
Newly crowned British Formula 3 Champion Jonny Kane made an impressive touring car debut, the Ulsterman claiming 11th-best time in the works Honda Accord. "I'm very pleased with the way things have gone," said Kane, "but everything looks very different when there's a roof over your head!" His Honda team-mate, Superbike ace Aaron Slight, was 16th today, just ahead of the Nissan of Paula Cook, who on Sunday will become the first woman for six years to race a BTCC car.
Plato and the rest will be bidding on Sunday to add their names to a roll-call of motor racing's great names. Past winners of the Tourist Trophy - first run in 1905 - include Charles Rolls, Tazio Nuvolari, Graham Hill and Stirling Moss.
Official qualifying for the TT takes place on Saturday. Sunday sees two 20-lap heats to decide the final grid positions for the 25-lap shoot-out for the big cash prize.
RAC TOURIST TROPHY - OFFICIAL TESTING, DONINGTON PARK, 16/10/97 1 Jason Plato (GB), Renault Laguna, 1m 10.773s, 99.56mph; 2 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo S40, 1m 11.169s; 3 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4 quattro, 1m 11.191s; 4 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 1m 11.266s; 5 Anthony Reid (GB), Nissan Primera, 1m 11.515s