Biela confirms Audi's superiority with a blistering fightback

Motor racing
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If evidence was ever needed to prove the dominance of the reigning touring car world champion, Frank Biela and his Audi A4, then the German provided it on the sweeps of Thruxton yesterday.

It was not just his canter to victory in the fifth round of the British Touring Car Championship, ahead of his team-mate John Bintcliffe, which reinforced the dominance. He impressed the crowd of 20,000 by charging to third place in the sixth round.

That in itself does not seem so impressive. However, Biela had crashed his car in Saturday's qualifying, badly damaging the chassis, and was forced to start from the back of the field.

His cause was helped when a safety car, called out after Steve Robertson's Ford crashed, bunched up the field on the second lap. But the German needed little assistance. From 20th place on the first lap, he was up to sixth place by halfway through the race and proceeded to reel in the leaders. By that stage, the BMW driver Joachim Winkelhock was leading his team- mate Roberto Ravaglia to a one-two finish, but Biela had his eyes set on third place.

That position was occupied by the reigning BTCC champion John Cleland's Vauxhall, who produced the drive of the first race by finishing fourth behind the Audis and the Volvo driver Rickard Rydell. Cleland's Vauxhall held him off until two laps from home, when Biela used the Audi's superior traction to storm past.

"The key for me were the two fast corners at the back of the track. I made up so much time on everybody there," Biela, the championship leader, said.

With his compatriot Winkelhock winning the race, the German duo made it six wins from six races and increased the calls from rival teams for weight to be added to the rear and four-wheel-drive cars.

Renault's Alain Menu was out of luck. He spun in the first race and then thundered off the circuit at high speed while chasing Bintcliffe. Although he was unhurt, his car was out of action for the day.

Rydell claimed third place in the fifth round, but a failed gamble with his tyres dropped him to eighth place in the second race, behind Bintcliffe who spun when contesting sixth place with Tim Harvey.