News from the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship 20/4/98 RYDELL LEADS THE PACK TO SILVERSTONE Super Swede Rickard Rydell heads for Silverstone this weekend (Apr 25/26) bidding to maintain his Auto Trader RAC British Touring...
News from the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship 20/4/98
RYDELL LEADS THE PACK TO SILVERSTONE
Super Swede Rickard Rydell heads for Silverstone this weekend (Apr 25/26) bidding to maintain his Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship points lead - but the 29-year-old Volvo driver knows a repeat of his BTCC first-round victory will be anything but easy.
Rydell's Thruxton Sprint Race win was achieved despite the fiercest opposition from the Renault, Honda, Vauxhall and Nissan teams, and with this year's Auto Trader BTCC thrown wide open by the introduction of 'One-Shot Showdown' qualifying and pit stops, only one thing can be guaranteed of Sunday's twin-race Silverstone stormer - a battle royal.
"Winning the opening round at Thruxton was a great start to the season both for me and for Volvo," says Rydell, "but I know it's not going to be easy to finish in front at Silverstone. By winning round two, Alain Menu proved Renault is still going to be the team to beat this season, and the Hondas were very fast in pre-season testing at Silverstone. Even so, I'm looking forward to this weekend - the new qualifying and race formats are really exciting innovations. The two races at Thruxton were among the most fun I've had in my whole career."
Rydell and his Italian ex-F1 team-mate Gianni Morbidelli were among the quickest in Silverstone testing last month, eclipsed only by the Honda of James Thompson. But Renault showed good form also, and reigning champion Menu and his running mate Jason Plato - who between them won every BTCC race at the Northants track last year - are an ever-present threat.
Oxford-based Plato, 29, says he's really looking forward to Silverstone: "It's a circuit I know well and where the Renault Laguna has a great record of success. I qualified in the top three for all the races there last year, and won the final one too - so the omens are good. Silverstone has plenty of overtaking spots, which is great for the fans, and the new rules have added even more drama to the BTCC action. It's going to be a terrific weekend."
Other likely front-runners include the revitalised Vauxhall Vectras of double champion John Cleland and ex- Grand Prix star Derek Warwick, the swift Nissan Primeras of Scots duo David Leslie and Anthony Reid, and the Audis of John Bintcliffe and Yvan Muller. The Ford and Peugeot teams, both in the wars at Thruxton, will be looking to make up ground on their rivals.
Official BTCC testing takes place at Silverstone on Thursday and Friday (Apr 23/24), with qualifying on Saturday and the twin Auto Trader BTCC races - plus a full supporting programme of single-seater, sports car and saloon action - set for Sunday.
-- BTCC official website www.btcc.co.uk