NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 4/5/97 The Renault BTCC rollercoaster gathered pace at Thruxton this afternoon (Sun) in official qualifying for tomorrow's Bank Holiday rounds of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car ...
NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, 4/5/97 The Renault BTCC rollercoaster gathered pace at Thruxton this afternoon (Sun) in official qualifying for tomorrow's Bank Holiday rounds of the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, with Williams team-mates Alain Menu and Jason Plato once again establishing a Laguna lock-out of the front row of the grid for round five, and Menu claiming the round six pole also.
Swiss ace Menu was quicker than Plato by more than half a second in qualifying for round five of the Auto Trader Championship, lapping the 2.4-mile Hampshire track -- the quickest on the BTCC calendar -- in 1m 16.850s, an average speed of more than 110mph. It was Menu's second pole position of the season, Renault's fifth from five outings and the fourth Renault 1-2. Championship rookie Plato was lucky to take second spot after a big spin at the Complex which caused light damage to his car.
The wet-to-dry track conditions suited the four-wheel-drive Audis of reigning champion Frank Biela -- who posted fourth-best time, two- tenths slower than Honda's Gabriele Tarquini -- and John Bintcliffe, who was sixth, half a second down on Biela and the Honda of James Thompson.
In qualifying for round six, Menu once again claimed the pole, but this time the Hondas of Tarquini and Thompson split the Renault duo, with Plato lining up fourth on the grid after a misfire hampered his progress. Menu's time in the much drier second session was, at 1m 16.538s, the quickest ever qualifying lap of Thruxton, being some two-hundredths inside his own testing best.
Bintcliffe and Biela were fifth and sixth fastest, with the Volvos of Rydell and Burt pushed down to 11th and 13th respectively; they blamed a wrong tyre choice.
Round five and six of the 1997 Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship are scheduled for 1245 and 1540 tomorrow; record Bank Holiday Monday crowds are expected. Menu goes into the meeting with a 27-point lead over Rydell in the drivers' championship after a clean sweep of four race wins from four starts. Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship Official qualifying, Thruxton, 4/5/97 Round 5 1 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 1m 16.850s, 110.36mph; 2 Jason Plato (GB), Renault Laguna, 1m 17.433s; 3 Gabriele Tarquini (It), Honda Accord, 1m 17.521s; 4 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, 1m 17.704s; 5 James Thompson (GB), Honda Accord, 1m 17.704s Round 6 1 Menu, 1m 16.538s, 110.81mph; 2 Tarquini, 1m 17.183s; 3 Thompson, 1m 17.368s; 4 Plato, 1m 17.462s; 5 Bintcliffe, 1m 17.473s ------- BTCC97 www.demon.co.uk/racing/