Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship Rounds 9 & 10 Oulton Park 25 May 1998 Round 9: 20 laps / 33.08 miles / 53.23km
1 Alain Menu, SWI, Renault Laguna, 20m 16.790s, 97.87mph; 2 Rickard Rydell, SWE, Volvo S40, +1.978s; 3 David Leslie, GB, Nissan Primera, +2.955s; 4 Jason Plato, GB, Renault Laguna, +3.236s; 5 Anthony Reid, GB, Nissan Primera, +12.477s; 6 Gianni Morbidelli, ITA, Volvo S40, +13.416s; 7 John Cleland, GB, Vauxhall Vectra, +14.881s; 8 Will Hoy, GB, Ford Mondeo, +15.680s; 9 John Bintcliffe, GB, Audi A4, +16.970s; 10 Yvan Muller, FRA, Audi A4, +17.526s; 11 Derek Warwick, GB, Vauxhall Vectra, +18.154s; 12 Paul Radisich, NZ, Peugeot 406, +23.881s; 13 Tommy Rustad, NOR, Renault Laguna, +25.092s; 14 Craig Baird, NZ, Ford Mondeo, +26.301s; 15 Robb Gravett, GB, Honda Accord, +1m 05.313s; 16 Roger Moen, NOR, Honda Accord, 19 laps.
FASTEST LAP Menu, 59.646s, 99.829mph.
RETIREMENTS Peter Kox, NL, Honda Accord, 10 laps, accident damage James Thompson, GB, Honda Accord, 8 laps, engine Mark Lemmer, GB, Vauxhall Vectra, 6 laps, accident damage Tim Harvey, GB, Peugeot 406, 1 lap, accident damage Matt Neal, GB, Nissan Primera, 1 lap, accident damage
Round 10: 40 laps / 66.16 miles / 106.45km
1 Plato, 41m 20.394s, 96.02mph; 2 Rydell, +0.580s; 3 Reid,+1.057s; 4 Menu,+2.775s; 5 Thompson, +6.926s; 6 Cleland, +20.138s; 7 Hoy, +20.585s; 8 Bintcliffe, +22.887s; 9 Morbidelli, +23.473s; 10 Muller, +24.409s; 11 Baird, +49.188s; 12 Rustad, +51.737s; 13 Radisich, +1m 04.935s; 14 Neal, 39 laps; 15 Moen, 39 laps; 16 Gravett, 39 laps;
FASTEST LAP Reid, 1m 00.139s, 99.011mph
RETIREMENTS Leslie, 36 laps, suspension Warwick, 20 laps, accident damage Harvey, 8 laps, engine Kox, 5 laps, fuel leak Lemmer, 0 laps (did not start)
Rounds 9 & 10 The Renault team revisited past glories at Oulton Park this afternoon, Laguna drivers Alain Menu and Jason Plato taking a win apiece in the ninth and 10th rounds of the 1998 Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship. Reigning champion Menu dominated the Sprint Race, winning with ease from the pole, and looked set to make it two in a row in the Feature Race until an uncharacteristic mistake from the Swiss star handed victory to his team-mate. Plato thus became the season's sixth different race winner in 10 races. But while the Renault men shared the victory spoils, Volvo's Rickard Rydell emerged the real winner of the afternoon, the Swede extending his overall championship lead to 24 points thanks to a brace of second-place finishes. The Sprint Race saw a performance redolent of Menu's championship-dominating form of last season. The wiry Swiss led all the way from pole position in his Laguna, beating off a startline challenge from Rydell and romping into a one-second lead over the Swede by the third of the 20 laps. For good measure Menu posted the fastest lap time of the race as he sped into the distance; he eased off only after extending the gap on his pursuers to two seconds, five laps from the chequered flag. As is so often the case at Oulton the getaway from the grid was a fraught affair. On this occasion it was leading Autosport Independent racer Matt Neal who fell foul of the battle for track space, his Nissan edged into the barriers at Old Hall. Neal continued, but only so far as the pits where his Primera was deemed to be too badly damaged to continue. Fellow independent Mark Lemmer was also in the wars, his Vauxhall retiring after contact with Robb Gravett's Honda. Behind masterful Menu, Rydell was under severe early pressure from David Leslie but, as the laps ticked away, it was clear that Volvo was handling better than Nissan and the championship leader's second-place finish was never seriously threatened thereafter. James Thompson held fourth for Honda until his Accord's engine let go on lap eight; Plato's Renault next took up the pursuit of Leslie, closing on to the Scotsman's tail in the final laps but failing to find a way past. Anthony Reid claimed fifth for Nissan, with Volvo's Gianni Morbidelli sixth. Norwegian Renault pilot Tommy Rustad claimed the Autosport Independents prize with his drive to 13th overall. The works Honda team's misery was compounded by the retirement of Peter Kox's car after a clash with Tim Harvey's Peugeot; Harvey, too, was forced out. Driver quotes, round 9 Leslie: "I was certainly putting pressure on Rydell at the start but I had trouble with understeer in the middle of the race. Plato caught me but he wasn't going to get past. I am happy with third - if we can finish regularly on the podium, the points will soon mount up." Rydell: "I thought that whoever got to the first corner first would win. Leslie got quite close to me, but passing here is very difficult." Menu: "I think the start was the key to the race. Mine was better than Rickard's, and I was able to build a gap from there. I always go well here. The Renault is quick here - some cars suit some circuits better. I am gong to win a few more races this year, but the championship's going to be a long, hard fight." Anthony Reid had his sights firmly set on victory in the Feature Race, his Nissan blasting away from his first pole position of the season to take a commanding early lead over Menu, Leslie, Plato, Thompson and Rydell. By lap 16 (of 40), Reid was 1.6 seconds ahead. However, all his good work came undone in the pits the next time around when he stopped for his mandatory wheel-change. New leader Menu pitted a lap later, returning to the circuit well in front of Reid and the other early stoppers Leslie and Thompson. Plato, Audi's John Bintcliffe, Volvo's Gianni Morbidelli and Vauxhall's John Cleland went on to score bonus points for leading as the pit-stops ensued, Menu regaining top spot on lap 27 with a half-second advantage over Plato, Rydell, Reid and Leslie. The champion looked all set to do the double... However, the Renault team leader reckoned without having to find a way past the Peugeot of Paul Radisich. Having returned to the track just in front of the leaders after taking a stop-go penalty for speeding in the pit lane, Radisich was in the wrong place at the wrong time as the front-runners bore down on him through Fosters; Menu was wrong-footed, ran wide and gave Plato and Rydell the opportunity they had been waiting for. Both were through in the blink of an eye, Menu relegated to third. And the misery wasn't yet over for Menu: five laps from the end Reid muscled his Nissan past the Renault to claim a podium place. Menu held on to fourth ahead of Thompson, with Cleland inheriting sixth from Leslie after the latter's retirement with suspension trouble. Plato's victory keeps the Renault squad out in front of the manufacturers' and teams' championships, while Renault's independent, Tommy Rustad, takes over the lead of the Autosport Cup after a second class victory in the Feature Race, gifted to him after Neal was forced back to pits for a second time to have his car's pit-stop-identifier properly removed. Driver quotes round 10 Reid: "We had a comfortable lead before the pit stop and I was disappointed to be behind the Renaults and Rydell after it. I pushed hard and Alain made a few mistakes and I managed to squeeze through. He doesn't mind dishing it out, so I hope he's not too unhappy to be on the receiving end." Rydell: "I'm really pleased with two second places. Ours wasn't the quickest car here and I'm also delighted that Alain and Jason shared the winners' points. I must thank my team for a really good pit stop; they gained me at least two places." Plato: "It was very important for me to get a win this weekend to stay in the championship race. After the pit stops I was right behind Alain and put pressure on him as we came up behind some back-markers. There was an incident and it opened up for me."