NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 17/4/97

BTCC rookie Jason Plato continued his impressive form this afternoon (Thurs), topping the timesheets in official testing at Silverstone for Sunday's third and fourth rounds of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship.

Plato -- who scored a pole position double for Renault on his debut at Donington last month -- lapped the revised Silverstone International circuit in 1 minute 22.572 seconds, two-tenths faster than his team- mate and championship leader Alain Menu.

Said Plato: ''We have had a lot of development work to get through today but we still managed to get down to a good time. I'm looking forward to the weekend.''

Gabriele Tarquini, the 1994 champion, was third fastest for Honda, just ahead of Rickard Rydell's Volvo. Reigning champion Frank Biela was fifth fastest for Audi.

There is a further official test session at Silverstone tomorrow (Fri), with official qualifying scheduled for Saturday. Rounds three and four of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship take place at 1230 and 1530 on Sunday.

Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship Official testing, Silverstone, 17/4/97 1 Jason Plato (GB), Renault Laguna, 1m 22.572s; 2 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 1m 22.778s; 3 Gabriele Tarquini (It), Honda Accord, 1m 22.992s; 4 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo S40, 1m 23.158s; 5 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, 1m 23.253s; 6 James Thompson (GB), Honda Accord, 1m 23.424s; 7 Kelvin Burt (GB), Volvo S40, 1m 23.711s; 8 Tim Harvey (GB), Peugeot 406, 1m 24.142s; 9 Anthony Reid (GB), Nissan Primera, 1m 24.227s; 10 David Leslie (GB), Nissan Primera, 1m 24.268s; 11 John Bintcliffe (GB), Audi A4, 1m 24.311s; 12 John Cleland (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, 1m 24.455s. -------- BTCC97 www.demon.co.uk/racing/