BTCC: Thruxton preview

News from the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship 6/4/98 EAGER EASTER RACERS PROMISE THRUXTON THRILLER The world's fastest-paced and most competitive touring car series - the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship -...

News from the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship 6/4/98

EAGER EASTER RACERS PROMISE THRUXTON THRILLER

The world's fastest-paced and most competitive touring car series - the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship - bursts back into life at Thruxton a week today (Apr 13). And the signs are that the Hampshire track, venue for the first two of the BTCC's 26 rounds, will provide some scintillating action.

Thruxton is the quickest circuit in Britain - the BTCC qualifying lap record average speed exceeds 111mph - and that presents a unique set of problems for the title- chasers, led by Renault's reigning champion, Alain Menu, who is bidding to become the first driver of the modern era to claim back-to-back championship wins.

Said Menu: "I'm fired up and waiting to go. My aim, of course, is to defend my crown - but it won't be easy. The Laguna is now entering its fifth season and inevitably some of the others will have made up ground over the winter. Thruxton is a great circuit to start the 1998 series. It's one of the tracks where a driver can make a real difference to his car's performance, so it's always a big challenge. It's one of my favourite circuits, so it's strange that I haven't won there since 1995."

Early-season testing form suggests that the Swiss star is right to be concerned about his rivals: the Honda, Volvo and Audi teams have all shown lightning pace. And Audi's John Bintcliffe and Yvan Muller will be keen to maintain the team's impressive Thruxton scoring record.

For former World Sportscar Champion and Lotus F1 ace Derek Warwick, whose family home is at nearby Alresford, Thruxton provides the opportunity to prove his Triple 8 team has revitalised the Vauxhall Vectra. "We are not yet shouting from the rooftops," says Warwick, "but we are much more confident going into this season than last. I am looking forward to starting the season 'at home', where there is always a good crowd of family, friends and employees with us. I want to go well - we all want to repay the faith Vauxhall has shown. We are aiming for the podium."

Adding spice to the proceedings is the adoption by the Auto Trader BTCC of the new 'One-Shot Showdown' qualifying system and Feature Race pit stops, which will be tried for the first time at Thruxton. "I'm looking forward to the new qualifying format and the pit-stops," says Menu. "Those should be really interesting, especially at Thruxton where the pit lane is rather short."

Official BTCC testing takes place at Thruxton on Wednesday and Thursday (Apr 8/9), with qualifying on Easter Sunday and the twin Auto Trader BTCC races - plus a full supporting programme of single-seater, sports car and saloon action - set for Bank Holiday Monday.

-- BTCC official website www.btcc.co.uk

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