Biela makes hay in the rain

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

The rain came to the aid of Frank Biela, the British Touring Car Championship leader, here yesterday. The German struggled home in 11th place in the first of the day's two races because his Audi was unable to use its four- wheel drive system to the maximum in the dry conditions. However, he claimed his fifth win of the year in the rain storms of the second event.

While Biela spent the first race in the company of John Cleland, the reigning champion, the Volvo driver, Kelvin Burt, scored his first win of the year - and the first by a British driver in 1996. Burt trailed BMW's Roberto Ravaglia for 15 laps before slipping by to win. David Leslie gave Honda their best result in their two-year campaign by finishing third, ahead of Rickard Rydell's Volvo and Alain Menu's Renault after a tense battle.

"This is a breakthrough for us," Burt said. "We have had bad luck and accidents this year, but the potential has always been there. This is the first time I have really hit the spot."

When rain fell shortly before the start of the second race Biela's hopes were boosted. Starting from pole position, he tore into a lead he was to lose only briefly to Menu. When the rain intensified he managed to pull clear.

However, as the race progressed he came under pressure from Ravaglia. The BMW driver used lightly-grooved tyres to climb from 12th place on to Biela's tail by the end of the race.

Biela protested that the 30kg penalty which will shortly be added to the all-powerful Audis was unfair. "To do this after only eight races is totally unfair. We will really be in trouble from now on," he said.

John Bintcliffe and Menu fought a stirring battle for third place, which eventually went to the British driver. Rydell, James Thompson and Paul Radisch swapped paint in the struggle for fifth place.

Any hopes Burt had of repeating his success in the second were destroyed shortly after the start. Running on Cleland's tail, the pair spun and Burt's day ended in the gravel.

Results, Digest, page 19