Motor Racing: The wheel of fortune favours Tarquini at Thruxton

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The Independent Online
GABRIELE TARQUINI, driving an Alfa Romeo 155, won the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton yesterday. The Italian led all the way from pole position with the exception of the first few yards of the opening lap. Though pressed hard towards the end of the race, he just managed to stay clear of the chasing pack by a second.

Paul Radisich, one of the pre-season favourites, was Tarquini's first challenger, the New Zealander attacking fiercely from the second row of the grid in his Mondeo to snatch the lead on the Wiltshire track. But Radisich soon fell back among his pursuers and he later spun further down the order after clashing with Giampiero Simoni, Tarquini's Alfa Romeo team-mate.

John Cleland, whose natural aggression occasionally leads him into making rash moves, chased Tarquini hard all the way to the chequered flag in his Vauxhall Cavalier. Following the race, though, the British driver said he felt he had little hope of passing the Italian. Simoni, meanwhile, was third for Alfa, ahead of the reigning champion, Jo Winkelhock, in the lead BMW 318i.

BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP First round (Thruxton, 20 laps / 47.12 miles): 1 G Tarquini (It, Alfa Romeo 155) 27min 19.12sec, 103.48mph; 2 J Cleland (GB, Vauxhall Cavalier) +0.56sec; 3 G Simoni (It, Alfa Romeo 155) +12.86; 4 J Winkelhock (Ger, BMW 318i) +15.26; 5 S Soper (GB, BMW 318i) +17.56; 6 W Hoy (GB, Toyota Carina) +17.91; 7 A Menu (Swit, Renault Laguna) +21.22; 8 P Watts (GB, Peugeot 405) +29.26; 9 D Leslie (GB, Mazda Xedos 6) +32.85; 10 K O'dor (GB, Nissan Primera) +33.45. Privateers' Cup: J Kaye (GB, Toyota Carina). Fastest lap: Tarquini 1m 20.20, 105.75mph. Pole position: Tarquini 1 19.35, 106.88. Championship positions: 1 Tarquini, 24 pts; 2 Cleland, 18; 3 Simoni, 12.

(Photograph omitted)