BTCC: Knockhill report

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Knockhill, 28/07/96 FRANK BIELA edged closer to the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship drivers' title with a win and a second place for Audi at a spectator-packed Knockhill...

NEWS FROM THE AUTO TRADER RAC TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Knockhill, 28/07/96 FRANK BIELA edged closer to the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship drivers' title with a win and a second place for Audi at a spectator-packed Knockhill this afternoon (Sun), with Volvo's Rickard Rydell winning his second BTCC race of the season to re- establish his claim to the overall runner-up spot.

Biela's victory -- his sixth of the season -- came in round 17 of the country's premier motor racing series, on the tight and twisty Fife circuit which was always going to favour the four-wheel drive system of his Audi A4.

With eight rounds remaining, German ace Biela enjoys a 58-point advantage over Rydell in the fight for the drivers' championship. Rydell said after his round 18 win: 'To win the championship now I need Frank not to finish the next three of four races, as well as a lot of luck. I shall try my best to win the next races [at Oulton Park] and then we'll see...'

Round 17 of the championship saw Rydell assume command from pole position, pursued by Biela, the BMWs of Roberto Ravaglia and Jo Winkelhock, and John Bintcliffe in the second Audi. Bintcliffe made the earliest move of the race, displacing Winkelhock from fourth at the end of the first lap.

The top five circulated bumper-to-bumper until half-distance, when Rydell -- apparently beginning to suffer tyre deterioration -- slipped into Biela's clutches at the Hairpin and the Audi took the lead. The following lap, Bintcliffe followed his team leader's example and passed Ravaglia for third. After a further 10 laps on Rydell's tail, Bintcliffe moved past to make it an Audi 1-2.

The Volvo team's woes were compounded two laps from the end when Kelvin Burt was forced into retirement with accident damage; the same lap, Rydell lost third place to Ravaglia. At the flag, Biela was two-and-a-half seconds clear of Bintcliffe, with Ravaglia, Rydell and Winkelhock in close attendance. Silverstone winner David Leslie (Honda) was sixth and top Scot on home turf.

The championship's other Scottish frontrunner, reigning champion John Cleland, was a disappointed non-finisher, spinning out on lap four after his Vauxhall collected a puncture.

Round 18 saw Rydell again hold the advantage from pole position -- but this time he held off Biela's advances all the way to the chequered flag. The two were never separated by more than a bumper's width throughout the 35-lap event, and finished just 0.35s apart. Said Rydell, who only just made it on to the grid after lengthy revisions were required to his Volvo: 'We made it into the race with only five minutes to spare. And I don't think I have ever driven such a close race.' Biela added: 'Rickard drove a very good race, with no mistakes. I couldn't have passed him without having an accident.'

Ravaglia finished third for BMW, ahead of Bintcliffe and Winkelhock. Cleland reversed his fortunes of the earlier race to displace Leslie from sixth four laps from home.

The weekend's events were a disaster for the Renault team and Alain Menu, who previously had held second spot in the championship. A succession of engine problems blighted his testing and qualifying runs, and his Laguna expired from round 18 at mid-distance with another powerplant failure -- the team's sixth in Scotland.

The Total Cup for Privateers battle was won by Richard Kaye in round 17; Kaye led again in round 18 until spinning almost within sight of the flag and handing honours to Matt Neal, the reigning Total Cup Champion claiming his first victory of the year. RESULTS Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, round 17 35 laps -- 45.5 miles / 73.15km 1 Frank Biela (Ger), Audi A4, 31m 52.62s, 85.64mph/137.82kmh; 2 John Bintcliffe (GB), Audi A4, +2.46s; 3 Roberto Ravaglia (It), BMW 320i, +5.76s; 4 Rickard Rydell (Swe), Volvo 850, +6.58s; 5 Jo Winkelhock (Ger), BMW 320i, +8.06s; 6 David Leslie (GB), Honda Accord, +13.99s; 7 Paul Radisich (NZ), Ford Mondeo, +34.53s; 8 James Kaye (GB), Honda Accord, +40.87s; 9 Alain Menu (Switz), Renault Laguna, +43.57s; 10 Will Hoy (GB), Renault Laguna, +44.40s. Total Cup Privateers: Richard Kaye (GB), Vauxhall Cavalier. Fastest lap: Biela, 53.51s, 87.46mph/140.75kmh (record). Round 18 35 laps -- 45.5 miles / 73.15km 1 Rydell, 31m 44.90s, 85.95mph/138.38kmh; 2 Biela, +0.35s; 3 Ravaglia, +1.00s; 4 Bintcliffe, +1.42s; 5 Winkelhock, +22.87s; 6 John Cleland (GB), Vauxhall Vectra, +25.72s; 7 Leslie, +29.72s; 8 James Kaye, +30.68s; 9 Radisich, +32.08s; 10 Kelvin Burt (GB), Volvo 850, +32.60s. Total Cup Privateers: Matt Neal (GB), Ford Mondeo. Fastest lap: Bintcliffe, 53.52s, 87.44mph/140.72kmh. CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS Drivers: 1 Biela, 198 points; 2 Rydell, 140; =3 Menu & Winkelhock, 118; 5 Ravaglia, 117; 6 Bintcliffe, 100. Manufacturers: 1 Audi, 208; 2 BMW, 193; 3 Volvo, 175; 4 Renault, 163; 5 Vauxhall, 126; 6 Honda, 114; 7 Ford, 59; 8 Peugeot, 54. Total Cup Privateers: 1 Lee Brookes (GB/Toyota), 214; 2 Richard Kaye, 200.

-- Official BTCC website: Best in British Motor Sport

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Series BTCC
Drivers Frank Biela , David Leslie , Kelvin Burt , Matt Neal , Paul Radisich , John Cleland , James Kaye , Rickard Rydell , Will Hoy , Roberto Ravaglia , Alain Menu