BTCC: Brands Hatch report

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Brands Hatch, 30/6/96 RENAULT became the fifth different manufacturer to take race victory in the 1996 Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship with a dominant display at...

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Brands Hatch, 30/6/96 RENAULT became the fifth different manufacturer to take race victory in the 1996 Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship with a dominant display at Brands Hatch this afternoon (Sun). Team leader Alain Menu scored a memorable double win from pole position in both of the day's races, smashing the circuit lap record on each occasion.

For his team, Williams Renault Dealer Racing, it was a triple celebration as Damon Hill triumphed in the French Grand Prix. Menu's double top accelerates him into second position in the championship behind Audi's Frank Biela, whose lead is narrowed to 44 points as the championship passes the half-way mark.

Biela was second to Menu in round 13, with BMW's Jo Winkelhock in the Renault's wheeltracks in round 14. Swiss ace Menu -- last year's championship runner-up -- made his intentions plain in qualifying for round 13, posting a time more than a second inside his own qualifying lap record for the Kent track's Grand Prix layout. His nearest rival, Biela, was nearly eight-tenths of a second slower. Although Biela tried to make the most of his four-wheel-drive Audi's superior traction to try to outdrag Menu into Paddock Hill Bend at the start, the Renault man's front-drive Laguna held on to lead out of the Druids hairpin, with Rickard Rydell's Volvo right on Biela's tail for third, Will Hoy in the second Renault fourth and Winkelhock fifth and taking advantage of a collision at Druids between the cars of his team-mate Roberto Ravaglia and Paul Radisich. Radisich's Ford Mondeo was sidelined by the clash, Ravaglia slipped to ninth. Menu eased out a healthy three-second lead over Biela in the first four laps, only to see his advantage narrowed to nothing at the start of the fifth tour, when the TOCA Safety Car was brought into operation for a lap while the cars of Radisich and Honda's James Kaye -- which had spun off on the opening lap -- were retrieved. At the restart, however, Menu maintained his pace to fend off Biela again. Behind the Audi was an eight-car bumper-to-bumper train comprising Rydell, Hoy, David Leslie (Honda) -- who demoted Winkelhock to sixth into Paddock -- James Thompson (Vauxhall), Kelvin Burt (Volvo), Ravaglia and John Cleland (Vauxhall). Thereafter Menu eased away from Biela for a comfortable 4.5-second victory, with Rydell third ahead of Hoy. Leslie held off several challenges from Winkelhock to retain fifth place. The Total Cup for Privateers battle was won by Richard Kaye's Vauxhall Cavalier, who finished 15 seconds ahead of his only rival, Lee Brookes (Toyota).

Menu had every intention of repeating his victory in round 14, which he also started from pole position. He made an impeccable start to lead the field at the first corner, ahead of the fast-starting Winkelhock who had leapfrogged into second from fifth on the grid. Leslie held third briefly but was unseated by Hoy at Surtees on the opening lap.

Menu smashed the lap record he had set earlier in the day on the second lap of the race as he sped into a comfortable lead over Winkelhock. By mid-distance his advantage was nearly five seconds, which stretched to six seconds in the closing laps.

Although Winkelhock was secure in second place for the duration, the battle for third was intense: Hoy leading Leslie, Cleland, Thompson and Burt in a five-car train for much of the race. The status quo was broken three laps from home when Leslie and Cleland clashed, the former dropping back to seventh as Cleland powered into fourth place behind Hoy. Thompson was fifth ahead of Burt -- who acquitted himself well on his return to the cockpit after his violent Oulton Park crash last month.

Behind Leslie in seventh was a subdued Biela, with Tim Harvey ninth for Peugeot and Gary Ayles 10th in the Nissan Primera. Rydell, who was forced to fight through from the back of the grid after his qualifying time was disallowed after noise checks, claimed 12th behind Radisich.

Menu said after the race: 'I was not thinking about the championship -- just trying to win the races. The engine we used today was the best we have had all year; it's looking good for us now.' His title rival Biela admitted he was now driving with the championship in mind: 'There are still many races left and my chances of winning them if the weather is dry are slim. It is going to be very tough from now on...' RESULTS Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, round 13 18 laps -- 46.8 miles / 75.42km 1 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, 28m 16.50s, 99.31mph/159.83kmh; 2 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, +4.58s; 3 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo 850, +4.74s; 4 Will Hoy (GB), Renault Laguna, +5.43s; 5 David Leslie (GB), Honda Accord, +8.64s; 6 Jo Winkelhock (Ger), BMW 320i, +8.96s; 7 James Thompson (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +9.68s; 8 Kelvin Burt (GB), Volvo 850, +9.95s; 9 Roberto Ravaglia (It), BMW 320i, +10.42s; 10 John Cleland (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +10.86s. Total Cup Privateers: Richard Kaye (GB), Vauxhall Cavalier, +25.50s. Fastest lap: Menu, 1m 29.19s, 104.95mph/168.90kmh (record). Round 14 17 laps -- 44.2 miles / 71.2km 1 Menu, 25m 38.95s, 103.40mph/166.41kmh; 2 Winkelhock, +5.37s; 3 Hoy, +7.69s; 4 Cleland, +11.27s; 5 Thompson, +11.85s; 6 Burt, +12.20s; 7 Leslie, +15.08s; 8 Biela, +15.41s; 9 Tim Harvey (GB), Peugeot 406, +21.93s; 10 Gary Ayles (GB), Nissan Primera, +23.65s. Total Cup Privateers: Lee Brookes (GB), Toyota Carina E, 12 laps. Fastest lap: Menu, 1m 28.93s, 105.25mph/169.39kmh (record). CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS Drivers: 1 Biela, 149 points; 2 Menu, 105; 3 Winkelhock, 100; 4 Rydell, 95; 5 John Bintcliffe (GB/Audi), 79; 6 Ravaglia, 72. Manufacturers: 1 Audi, 159; 2 BMW, 146; 3 Renault, 142; 4 Volvo, 130; 5 Vauxhall, 108; 6 Honda, 77; 7 Peugeot, 51; 8 Ford, 44. Total Cup Privateers: 1 Brookes, 166; 2 Kaye, 145.

-- Official BTCC website: Best in British Motor Sport

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About this article
Series BTCC
Drivers Frank Biela , Damon Hill , Tim Harvey , David Leslie , James Thompson , Kelvin Burt , Paul Radisich , John Cleland , James Kaye , Rickard Rydell , Will Hoy , Roberto Ravaglia , Gary Ayles , Alain Menu
Teams Williams