NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 19/9/97 THE battle for runner-up position in the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship took a new turn this afternoon (Fri) when Frank Biela topped the timesheets at a damp Silverstone in final official testing for Sunday's finale to the 1997 series.
Biela, the '96 champion, and young Renault racer Jason Plato are locked in battle for the honour of taking second place in the championship. Last week Plato was fastest in testing for Renault, but the wet conditions today played into the hands of the Audi team and their four-wheel-drive A4 quattros.
Biela's time -- 1m 30.708s -- was nearly four-tenths quicker than Plato's best, with Tim Harvey a surprise third quickest for Peugeot, ahead of Anthony Reid's Nissan. Biela and his Audi team-mate John Bintcliffe both emerged unscathed from high-speed spins today, as did Peugeot pairing Harvey and Patrick Watts. Sunday's twin races will decide not only whether it is Biela or Plato who finishes second to champion Alain Menu -- who tied up the title for Renault last month -- but also whether Swede Rickard Rydell can lift third place for the Volvo team. There's also a fight to the finish in the Total Cup for Independents: Colin Gallie (BMW) leads the way but his crown is under threat from 1990 champ Robb Gravett. Matt Neal's Nissan was quickest of the independent runners today. Official qualifying takes place at the Northants circuit tomorrow (Saty). Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship Official testing, Silverstone, 19/9/97 1 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, 1m 30.708s, 89.37mph; 2 Jason Plato (GB), Renault Laguna, 1m 31.096s; 3 Tim Harvey (GB), Peugeot 406, 1m 31.352s; 4 Anthony Reid (GB), Nissan Primera, 1m 31.433s; 5 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 1m 31.563s