Wet weather played its part in Harvey's performance. When Biela was pushed out of the sixth round of the series and crashed, causing the pace car to be scrambled, the Peugeot driver made a quick pit stop for grooved tyres. Tarquini, the race leader, and Menu stayed with slick tyres as Harvey dropped to the tail of the field.
"I had nothing to lose," Harvey said. "The car wasn't great in the dry so the rain was a godsend. By the end I was catching people hand over fist."
On his charge to second, Harvey also collided with John Cleland, sending the Vauxhall driver off the track at the chicane. "He closed the door on me much too early. There was no way I could avoid hitting him after that," Harvey said.
He closed right on to the tail of Tarquini's Honda on the final lap but the Italian, champion in 1994, just held on to win. Tarquini said: "I pushed as hard as possible in the conditions but I was driving on a knife edge."
Like the championship leader, Menu, who finished third in each of yesterday's races, Tarquini felt the conditions in the sixth round were too dangerous and that the race should have been stopped. The day's opening event was also run in the wet: ideal conditions for Biela's Audi.
The reigning champion caught the early race leader, Tarquini, and despite pressure from the Italian, held on to win for the first time in 1997. His victory briefly laid to rest claims from the German team that its four-wheel drive cars were unfairly handicapped with a 95kg weight difference over their rivals. Biela's team-mate, John Bintcliffe, was fourth in the day's opening race.
AUTO TRADER RAC BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP (Thruxton) Fifth round: 1 F Biela (Audi) 27min 3.695sec (94.02mph); 2 G Tarquini (Honda) +3.535; 3 A Menu (Renault) +5.926; 4 J Bintcliffe (Audi) +6.973; 5 R Rydell (Volvo) +16.535; 6 J Thompson (Honda) +16.840; 7 D Leslie (Nissan) +23.860; 8 A Reid (Nissan) +26.453; 9 T Harvey (Peugeot) +43.973; 10 P Radisich (Ford) +48.617. Sixth round: 1 Tarquini 34: 12.672 (90.90mph); 2 Harvey +0.687; 3 Menu +4.449; 4 Reid +6.312; 5 Rydell +12.246; 6 D Warwick (Vauxhall) +17.262; 7 J Plato (Renault) +20.797; 8 Bintcliffe +20.922; 9 J Cleland (Vauxhall) +25.371; 10 Radisich +26.129. Championship standings: 1 Menu 83pts; 2 Rydell 48; 3 Tarquini 45; 4 Plato 30; 5 Biela 29; =6 Bintcliffe, Harvey 23; 8 D Leslie 22; 9 Burt 20; 10 Warwick 13.
Gilles Panizzi took command in the Tour of Corsica rally yesterday in his two-wheel drive Peugeot. The reigning French champion was five seconds ahead of his compatriot and team-mate Francois Delecour in the other Peugeot 306. The Spaniard Carlos Sainz, the only non-Frenchman to have won in the Mediterranean island in the past 10 years, was third, recording the best time in three of the day's six stretches in a Ford Escort.