BTCC: Oulton Park report

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Oulton Park, 11/8/96 Audi's Frank Biela moved to within one race win of clinching the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship for drivers after a 1-2 result in this afternoon's twin...

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Oulton Park, 11/8/96 Audi's Frank Biela moved to within one race win of clinching the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship for drivers after a 1-2 result in this afternoon's twin rounds at Oulton Park in Cheshire. Reigning Touring Car World Cup Champion Biela placed second behind Renault's Alain Menu in round 19 of the series, then won from pole position in round 20. Biela now enjoys an 80-point advantage over his nearest rival in the championship, Volvo's Rickard Rydell -- the Swede suffered a poor day, finishing fifth in round 19 and retiring from round 20 after a brush with John Cleland's Vauxhall. Said Biela: 'For the first time I agree that the championship looks safe. The next two races at Thruxton are still important but I'd like to win the championship there so I can enjoy the final two meetings of the year.' The first race of the day was effectively won on the blast away from the startline, Menu's Renault storming away from pole position man David Leslie's Honda to take command of the race at the first corner. Biela made an extraordinary start from fifth on the grid, making the most of his Audi's four-wheel-drive traction to snatch second position ahead of Leslie. Behind there was opening-lap chaos as several cars clashed: Kelvin Burt's Volvo and the Audi of John Bintcliffe tangled, Bintcliffe spun and collected the Ford of Kiwi Paul Radisich. Both Radisich and Bintcliffe were sidelined -- it was Audi's first retirement of the season. Another incident saw James Thompson (Vauxhall) and Patrick Watts (Peugeot) in collision, Watts was out immediately and Thompson retired with accident damage a few laps later. Menu quickly eased into a comfortable lead over Biela and Leslie, but there was a furious battle behind for fourth place between Jo Winkelhock (BMW), Rickard Rydell (Volvo) and Will Hoy (Renault). Winkelhock held sway initially but Rydell found his way past on lap three. Hoy then displaced Winkelhock from fifth and set about closing the gap between himself and Rydell. Volvo held on in front of Renault until nine laps from home. The battle for the lead came alive in the closing stages -- Menu saw his lead over Biela cut from two seconds at one-third distance to just half a second with six laps to run. Then the championship leader mounted an all-out attack on the dash to the flag, pulling alongside Menu at one stage on the final lap, but he could not get ahead of the Swiss ace. Menu's Renault was just 0.31secs clear of the Biela Audi at the chequered flag, with Leslie a distant third for Honda. Hoy was fourth with Rydell hanging on to fifth ahead of Winkelhock and the duelling trio of John Cleland (Vauxhall), Kelvin Burt (Volvo) and Roberto Ravaglia (BMW). Biela made no mistake from pole position at the start of round 20, snatching the lead at the first corner ahead of Leslie, Menu and Winkelhock. And there the Audi man stayed all the way to the chequered flag, though he was made to work hard for his seventh win of the season -- Leslie was in his wheeltracks throughout the 27-lap sprint, letting the gap ease out to just over the one-second mark only in the closing stages. Menu, meanwhile, led Leslie's pursuers and he in turn had Winkelhock and Thompson in his mirrors throughout. On the final lap, Thompson slid back and into Ravaglia's clutches, the BMW man stealing fifth within sight of the flag. A strong run in sixth place from Hoy came to nothing at mid distance when his Renault engine expired. Rydell's troubled race in ninth place came to an end on lap seven when he pitted with a broken track rod after clashing with Cleland. The battle for honours in the Total Cup for Privateers was led from start to finish in both races by the Vauxhall of Richard Kaye, who as a result narrows to six the points gap between himself and privateer class leader Lee Brookes (Toyota). The championship now moves to Thruxton in Hampshire on Bank Holiday Monday, where a victory for Biela -- like that he scored there in May -- would be enough to set the seal on his title ambitions. The battle for manufacturer honours is less clear-cut, with Audi leading BMW by just 22 points. RESULTS Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, round 19 27 laps -- 44.6 miles / 71.8km 1 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 27m 39.89s, 97.20mph / 156.43kmh; 2 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, +0.31s; 3 David Leslie (GB), Honda Accord, +9.57s; 4 Will Hoy (GB), Renault Laguna, +13.75s; 5 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo 850, +16.86s; 6 Jo Winkelhock (Ger), BMW 320i, +18.45s; 7 John Cleland (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +19.67s; 8 Kelvin Burt (GB), Volvo 850, +19.95s; 9 Roberto Ravaglia (It), BMW 320i, +19.97s; 10 James Kaye (GB), Honda Accord, +37.33s; 11 & Total Cup Privateers: Richard Kaye (GB), Vauxhall Cavalier, +46.88s. Fastest lap: Biela, 1m 00.57s, 98.66mph / 158.78kmh (record). Round 20 27 laps -- 44.6 miles / 71.8km 1 Biela, 27m 46.14s, 96.84mph / 155.85kmh; 2 Leslie, +1.11s; 3 Menu, +1.73s; 4 Winkelhock, +2.45s; 5 Ravaglia, +9.67s; 6 James Thompson (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +10.27s; 7 Cleland, +19.21s; 8 Burt, +20.29s; 9 John Bintcliffe (GB), Audi A4, +20.94s; 10 James Kaye, +26.99s. 13 & Total Cup Privateers: Richard Kaye, +40.00s. Fastest lap: Biela, 1m 00.94s, 98.08mph / 157.81kmh. CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS Drivers: 1 Biela, 226 points; 2 Rydell, 146; 3 Menu, 143; 4 Winkelhock, 131; 5 Ravaglia, 125; 6 Bintcliffe, 102; 7 Leslie, 98; 8 Cleland, 79; 9 Hoy, 78; 10 Thompson, 69. Manufacturers: 1 Audi, 235; 2 BMW, 207; =3 Volvo & Renault, 188; 5 Vauxhall, 137; 6 Honda, 136; 7 Ford, 63; 8 Peugeot, 54. Total Cup Privateers: 1 Lee Brookes (GB/Toyota), 236; 2 Richard Kaye, 230. Next rounds: Aug 26, Thruxton. -- Official BTCC website: Best in British Motor Sport http://www.demon.co.uk/racing

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