BTCC: Oulton Park May report 97-05-26

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 26/5/97 Alain Menu and the Renault team this afternoon (Mon) showed their Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship rivals a clean pair of wheels at Oulton Park, winning both ...

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 26/5/97 Alain Menu and the Renault team this afternoon (Mon) showed their Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship rivals a clean pair of wheels at Oulton Park, winning both rounds nine and 10 of the series to further increase their respective championship leads. Menu's team-mate Jason Plato made it a Laguna 1-2 in the first of the day's races, with Honda's James Thompson pursuing Menu to the flag in the second. But Menu's masterplan for domination of round nine of the Auto Trader Championship almost went awry on the start line. He made a less-than- perfect getaway from the pole, allowing reigning champion Frank Biela and his four-wheel-drive Audi -- 30kg lighter from this race after a revision to the BTCC rules -- to squeeze past him and into second position behind Plato. Behind there was chaos as Kelvin Burt's Volvo snagged Thompson's Honda Thompson, sending the Accord cannoning into the Old Hall barriers. Thompson was unhurt but his car was badly damaged, and its recovery brought out the Safety Car to control the race for three laps. When the Safety Car pulled in Menu made short work of Biela, passing the Audi into Lodge at the end of lap five, and then set about reeling in Plato. The 28-year-old Briton kept Menu at bay until half-distance, until the effectiveness of his front tyres started to wane. Menu saw his chance and seized it, at Lodge again, romping past the other Renault and into a lead he never looked in danger of losing. It was Renault's and Menu's sixth victory of the season and the Williams-run team's second 1-2 result; Plato finished 2.6 seconds behind and a comfortable 3.3 seconds ahead of Biela. The second Audi, driven by John Bintcliffe, held fourth place throughout after making a blinding start from ninth on the grid. Double BTCC champion John Cleland gave the Vauxhall team its best result of the season with fifth place after a titanic duel with the Volvo of Rickard Rydell. The Swede's sixth was all the more impressive given that he had started from the back of the grid after his front-row qualifying time was disallowed after a weighbridge infringement. A good run in fifth place from Gabriele Tarquini came to a premature end when the 1994 champion smote the Lodge barriers on the seventh lap and he joined team-mate Thompson in retirement. Total Cup for Independents victor was BMW-driving Scot Colin Gallie, who inherited top slot after his rivals Matt Neal, Lee Brookes, Robb Gravett and Jamie Wall each took a turn in front. The tight startline at Oulton claimed more victims at the start of round 10; as Menu blasted into the lead from pole position and Bintcliffe made a great start from sixth on the grid to slot in behind the Renault, several cars touched and were delayed. This time it was Tarquini's turn among the Honda men to end his race in the barriers on lap one, with front-row man Rydell knocked back to 10th and Plato, who had started third, forced to the tail of the field. Bintcliffe's tenure of second place lasted only until the fourth lap, Thompson displacing the Audi with ease. By this time, however, Oulton maestro Menu had eased out a five-second lead which Thompson stood little chance of closing. Bintcliffe slipped further back as the race progressed; he bashed the kerbing at Fosters on lap nine, slipping behind Biela and the fired-up Rydell, out to make amends for his lap-one disappointments. By mid- distance Biela had lost third to Rydell, and retired a lap later with steering problems. At the chequered flag, Menu was six seconds ahead of Thompson, with Rydell third and Plato -- who had staged the most impressive fight-back of all -- up to fourth ahead of Bintcliffe and David Leslie's Nissan. Reigning Total Cup Champion Lee Brookes (Peugeot) claimed his first Independents category win of the season -- and ninth place overall -- after early leader Matt Neal (Ford) pitted with a puncture. With 10 of the Auto Trader Championship's 24 rounds now run, Menu - - victor of seven of them -- leads overall with 138 points, more than double the score of his nearest rival, Rydell. Renault enjoys a commanding manufacturer lead also, with 135 points to the 96 of Honda. Said Menu: "It looks like it's working out for me, like it did for Frank Biela last year. A lot of people are closing in on us, but they all seem to

be falling over each other! There's still a long way to go for the championship though..." RESULTS Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, round 9 Oulton Park, 26/5/97 30 laps/49.50 miles 1 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 33m 18.677s, 89.37mph / 143.83kmh; 2 Jason Plato (GB), Renault Laguna, +2.655s; 3 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, +5.986s; 4 John Bintcliffe (GB), Audi A4, +12.136s; 5 John Cleland (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +18.441s; Fastest lap: Menu, 59.615s, 99.88mph/160.74kmh (record). Round 10 27 laps/44.6 miles 1 Menu, 27m 25.407s, 97.70mph / 157.24kmh; 2 James Thompson (GB), Honda Accord, +6.164s; 3 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo S40, +8.180s; 4 Plato, +14.372s; 5 Bintcliffe, +21.402s; Fastest lap: Menu, 59.668s, 99.79mph / 160.59kmh. CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS Drivers 1 Menu, 139 points; 2 Rydell, 67; 3 Plato, 66; 4 Gabriele Tarquini (It/Honda), 63; 5 Thompson, 51; =6 Biela & Leslie, 46, etc. Manufacturers 1 Renault, 135; 2 Honda, 96; 3 Volvo, 93; 4 Audi, 76; 5 Nissan, 72; 6 Vauxhall, 52; 7 Peugeot, 49; 8 Ford, 47. Total Cup Independents 1 Robb Gravett (GB/Honda), 100; 2 Gallie, 99; 3 Jamie Wall (GB/Vauxhall), 76, etc. NEXT ROUNDS Donington Park, June 15 ------- www.btcc.co.uk

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