News from the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship 23/4/98

MENU LEADS AT SILVERSTONE; MANSELL BACK ON TRACK

Reigning champion Alain Menu splashed his way to best time in this afternoon's (Thurs) first official test session at Silverstone ahead of Sunday's third and fourth rounds of the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship.

Menu, who currently trails championship leader Rickard Rydell by eight points, made the best of the very wet conditions to lap the Northants circuit in 1m 32.083s, nearly four-tenths quicker than his Renault team-mate and closest rival Jason Plato.

Plato was one of several drivers to fall foul of the conditions today, his Laguna spinning off at Ireland corner and sustaining light damage.

Championship frontrunner Rydell was an encouraging third quickest for Volvo, ahead of the Nissans of David Leslie and Anthony Reid. Honda's James Thompson, who set the pace in testing at Silverstone last month, was a lowly 17th after his Accord suffered engine problems.

Today's action at Silverstone also featured Nigel Mansell's competitive return to the British tracks after a four-year absence. The 44-year-old former World Champion braved the conditions to test for the Ford team, with whom he will race in six BTCC rounds later in the season. He set 13th-best time, 1m 33.957s, after covering a race distance in a year-old car. Mansell's first race will be at Donington Park on June 14 - he will not be driving at Silverstone this weekend.

Said Mansell: "I'm pretty encouraged to be just a second off Will Hoy's pace, but there is still a long way to go. Today and tomorrow will give me good experience of the old car, then I must wait for the 1998 model to arrive. It would nice to get some dry-weather running tomorrow."

There's further Auto Trader BTCC testing at Silverstone tomorrow (Fri) followed by official qualifying on Saturday and rounds three and four of the championship on Sunday afternoon.

Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship Official testing / Silverstone, Northants / 23 April 1998 1 Alain Menu SWI Renault Laguna 1m 32.083s 88.04mph 2 Jason Plato GB Renault Laguna 1m 32.474s 3 Rickard Rydell SWE Volvo S40 1m 32.557s 4 David Leslie GB Nissan Primera 1m 32.780s 5 Anthony Reid GB Nissan Primera 1m 32.884s 6 Will Hoy GB Ford Mondeo 1m 32.966s 7 Derek Warwick GB Vauxhall Vectra 1m 33.119s 8 Gianni Morbidelli ITA Volvo S40 1m 33.296s 9 John Cleland GB Vauxhall Vectra 1m 33.384s 10 Paul Radisich NZ Peugeot 406 1m 33.414s