BTCC: Thruxton report

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Thruxton, 26/8/96 FRANK BIELA this afternoon (Mon) clinched the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship drivers' crown after a pair of thrilling races watched by a huge Bank Holiday...

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Thruxton, 26/8/96 FRANK BIELA this afternoon (Mon) clinched the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship drivers' crown after a pair of thrilling races watched by a huge Bank Holiday crowd at Thruxton. The Audi -driving German ace, who has led the series since its April start, finished second and third in respective races to put his points tally beyond the reach of any of his rivals. With German Touring Car Championship and FIA World Cup titles already on his CV, the new BTCC Champion was delighted by his victory: 'It's been a long, hard and difficult year,' he said. 'The Auto Trader Championship is a fantastic series and I hope very much to be back to defend my title next year. Now the pressure is gone and I can concentrate on winning some more races before the end of the year...' Biela very nearly added an eighth race victory to his tally in round 21 at Thruxton; he chased David Leslie's Honda all the way to the chequered flag, mounting several overtaking challenges along the way. At flag fall Leslie headed Biela by just 0.17 of a second. The pattern of the race was decided at the first corner, Allard, where BMW's Jo Winkelhock attempted to force his way past the front-row grid men, Alain Menu and Will Hoy, both in Renaults. Winkelhock and Menu made contact, Menu spun across the track and collected his team-mate and triggered an accident which accounted for both Renaults, Winkelhock, Kelvin Burt's Volvo, the Ford of Paul Radisich and James Thompson's Vauxhall. None of the drivers was hurt. Several drivers were slowed by the incident but Leslie managed to pick his way through the debris to assume the lead, pursued by Biela, Roberto Ravaglia (BMW), Rickard Rydell (Volvo) and Peter Kox, making his BTCC debut for BMW. Leslie pulled out a three-second lead over Biela but this was reduced to nothing on lap four when the Safety Car was brought out while the Allard accident was cleared. Leslie managed to cling on in front at the restart, but Ravaglia was caught napping by Rydell, who snatched third. Although he knew that second place was enough to guarantee his title, Biela never let up in his fight for the lead with Leslie. Time and again Audi pulled alongside Honda, but Leslie had his sights set on a second '96 BTCC victory and wasn't to be denied. Rydell held on for third despite intense late-race pressure from Ravaglia, with John Cleland's Vauxhall joining in the fight in the closing stages after he had overcome Biela's Audi team-mate John Bintcliffe for fifth. The Total Cup for Privateers honours fell to Toyota's Lee Brookes, whose only real rival was Matt Neal (Ford) after Richard Kaye's Vauxhall failed to start with mechanical problems. Round 22 was an even more dramatic affair, with Winkelhock making up for his earlier disappointment by claiming the lead away from pole position. Rydell and James Thompson (Vauxhall) led his pursuers. Leslie put paid to his chances of a repeat win when he spun to the back of the field on the opening lap. Winkelhock's tenure of the lead lasted for seven laps, but continued pressure from Rydell saw the BMW man run wide into the tricky Cobb corner. Rydell saw his chance and seized it, shooting past and into the lead. Clearly furious at his error, Winkelhock pursued the Volvo with vigour -- his efforts to regain the lead culminated in an attack at the chicane at the end of lap 14 which saw the BMW nose in front. Rydell was not be denied, however, and Winkelhock's failed bid cost him dearly as Thompson, Ravaglia and Biela bumped him down to fifth. Thompson closed on Rydell in the remaining distance but, at the chequered flag, Volvo headed Vauxhall by just half a second. Behind, there was further action as Menu -- 10th on the opening lap -- fought through the field to take up station in sixth place behind the two BMWs. He disposed of Winkelhock and Ravaglia in the final three laps to take fourth, right on Biela's tail. The top 10 was completed by Ravaglia, Winkelhock, Cleland, Leslie, James Kaye's Honda and Kox, who recovered from a stop to repair a puncture and set a new lap record in the process. Richard Kaye's repaired Vauxhall was the Total Cup victor, ahead of Brookes. With four rounds remaining, there's still plenty to play for in the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship -- the manufacturers' and teams' championships are still to be decided, Audi defending a large but not unbeatable lead in both over BMW. RESULTS Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, round 21 21 laps -- 49.48 miles / 79.63km 1 David Leslie (GB), Honda Accord, 29m 43.30s, 99.87mph / 160.73kmh; 2 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, +0.17s; 3 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo 850, +4.61s; 4 Roberto Ravaglia (It), BMW 320i, +4.87s; 5 John Cleland (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +5.40s; 6 John Bintcliffe (GB), Audi A4, +13.69s; 7 Peter Kox (Neth), BMW 320i, +21.98s; 8 James Kaye (GB), Honda Accord, +25.24s; 9 Lee Brookes (GB), Toyota Carina E, +58.51s; 10 Matt Neal (GB), Ford Mondeo, +1m 10.15s. Total Cup Privateers: Brookes. Fastest lap: Leslie, 1m 18.01s, 108.72mph / 174.97kmh. Round 22 19 laps -- 44.76 miles / 72.05km 1 Rydell, 25m 08.88s, 106.80mph / 171.88kmh; 2 James Thompson (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +0.53s; 3 Biela, +0.75s; 4 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, +1.37s; 5 Ravaglia, +3.23s; 6 Jo Winkelhock (Ger), BMW 320i, +4.23s; 7 Cleland, +9.79s; 8 Leslie, +15.41s; 9 James Kaye, +21.91s; 10 Kox, +32.25s. Total Cup Privateers: Richard Kaye (GB), Vauxhall Cavalier. Fastest lap: Kox, 1m 17.07s, 110.05mph / 177.10kmh (record). CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS Drivers: 1 Biela, 248 points; 2 Rydell, 171; 3 Menu, 152; 4 Ravaglia, 139; 5 Winkelhock, 137; 6 Leslie, 116; 7 Bintcliffe, 107; 8 Cleland, 89; 9 Thompson, 81; 10 Will Hoy (GB/Renault), 78. Manufacturers: 1 Audi, 257; 2 BMW, 221; 3 Volvo, 213; 4 Renault, 196; 5 Honda, 156; 6 Vauxhall, 155; 7 Ford, 66; 8 Peugeot, 58. Total Cup Privateers: 1 Brookes, 263; 2 Richard Kaye, 245. -- Official BTCC website: Best in British Motor Sport http://www.demon.co.uk/racing

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