NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 25/5/97 Championship leader Alain Menu will start both of tomorrow's (Mon) Oulton Park rounds of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship from pole position after another blistering display of superiority from the Williams-Renault team in official qualifying this afternoon.
Menu bettered by nearly a second reigning champion Frank Biela's qualifying record for the Cheshire track and was the only driver to break the 59-second barrier for the 1.65-mile track. "It's been a fairly straightforward day," said Menu, "and it's my aim to win both races tomorrow. However, Biela is bound to be a threat in the first race, and Rickard Rydell will be quick in the second."
Rydell will start the second of tomorrow's events alongside Menu, but his Volvo S40 will be missing from the front row of the grid for the first race after a pit-lane mix-up brought his exclusion from qualifying. Rydell failed to stop at a mandatory weight check and his time -- which was bettered only by Menu -- was thrown out. Said the Swede: "The sun was in my eyes and the weighbridge lights were not very sensibly placed, so I didn't see them..."
Second position on the grid for round nine thus falls to Menu's Renault team-mate Jason Plato, with Biela and his newly lightened Audi A4 in third slot.
Several cars were damaged in a number of separate incidents today. Will Hoy's Ford Mondeo was completely destroyed in a high-speed roll-over at Knickerbrook when its power steering failed; Hoy, the 1991 champion, was unhurt but is an unlikely starter tomorrow. John Bintcliffe's car was badly damaged when it went off the track at Druids, but the Audi is thought repairable.
There was disappointment also for Nissan's Anthony Reid, who lost the front spoiler of his Nissan Primera in a brush with the scenery, then had his qualifying time -- which would have been good enough for 10th on the grid for round nine -- disallowed when it was discovered his replacement spoiler was fractionally too low. He will line up at the back with Rydell...
Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship Official qualifying, Oulton Park, 25/5/97 Round 9 1 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 58.849s, 101.18mph; 2 Jason Plato (GB), Renault Laguna, 59.278s; 3 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, 59.322s; 4 Gabriele Tarquini (It), Honda Accord, 59.346s; 5 James Thompson (GB), Honda Accord, 59.412s; Round 10 1 Menu, 58.909s, 101.07mph; 2 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo S40, 59.221s; 3 Plato, 59.251s; 4 Tarquini, 59.300s; 5 Thompson, 59.326s;
-------- Full grids: www.btcc.co.uk