NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 2/8/97 JOHN BINTCLIFFE scored his debut Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship pole position, and his Audi team their first poles of the '97 season, after a dominant performance by the German four- wheel-drive machines at Knockhill today (Saty). Bintcliffe, who is in only his second year of BTCC competition, posted fastest time in official qualifying for round 15 of the championship with a time nearly two-tenths of a second inside the qualifying lap record for the Fife track. His team-mate, reigning champion Frank Biela, was second fastest, a tenth behind. Qualifying for round 16 of the Auto Trader Championship saw an Audi about-face, with Biela claiming the pole -- with an improved lap time -- ahead of Bintcliffe and Honda's James Thompson. Tomorrow's twin races at Knockhill will be televised live on BBC Grandstand, and could see Renault's Swiss star Alain Menu clinch the drivers' championship title. Menu will line up third on the grid, behind the Audis, in round 15 and fourth in round 16. Bintcliffe said of his pole lap: "It wasn't an ideal lap. I made a bit of a mistake, so I could have gone quicker. This is the one circuit where we dominated last season and I think that's the same this year."
Biela, who celebrated his birthday today, said: "It's a nice birthday present. The car seems strong here but we shall have to wait to see what happens tomorrow. The championship is lost now, but we can still fight for second place."
Biela's hopes of claiming the runner-up spot received a boost in the second qualifying session when Menu's team-mate Jason Plato -- currently second in the points standings -- crashed his Renault before setting a time and will start the race from the back of the grid. Top Scot in both practice sessions was Nissan's Anthony Reid, who was sixth quickest in each. Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship Official qualifying, Knockhill, 2/8/97 Round 15 1 John Bintcliffe (GB), Audi A4, 52.608s, 87.59mph; 2 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, 52.715s; 3 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 52.810s; 4 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo S40, 52.996s Round 16 1 Biela, 52.451s, 87.85mph; 2 Bintcliffe, 52.509s; 3 Thompson, 52.638s; 4 Menu, 52.665s; 5 Rydell, 52.785s www.btcc.co.uk