Motor racing: Nissans given a rough ride by Rydell

RICKARD RYDELL underlined both his qualifying prowess and the seriousness of his bid to win back-to-back British Touring Car Championship titles when he took pole position for rounds five and six at Thruxton yesterday.

The Volvo driver was marginally faster than the Nissan pair, David Leslie and Laurent Aiello, in both qualifying sessions and reckons he has a good chance of winning the two races today. "This is a very strong circuit for us," the Swede said, "but I had hoped we'd be further ahead of the Nissans."

While Rydell has put his championship challenge back on the right road after difficult times in the opening rounds, the current points leader, James Thompson, is faced with mounting a damage limitation operation as his all-new Honda Accord languished down qualifying lists in 10th and eighth places.

"We're just struggling for grip here, so we've got to look at the bigger picture," the 25-year-old Yorkshireman said. "The championship wont be won and lost here, so I've just got to make sure I score as many points as I can and then we can get on with our test programme and develop the car."

Jason Plato is well placed to strengthen his second place in the points table, with a pair of second row grid slots, as he and the Williams team work hard to sort out a radically reworked Renault Laguna.

Thruxton's bumpy 150-mph corners make it one of the most challenging circuits the series visits and a well-tuned chassis makes all the difference. Even Rydell admitted: "You never find a good balance at Thruxton. It's either bad or really bad."

n Three spectators were killed when a wheel and debris flew into the stands after a crash on the 62nd lap of an Indycar race in Concord, North Carolina, on Saturday.

BTCC qualifying times,

Digest, page 15

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