Motor Racing: Thompson and Leslie close gap

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BRITISH DRIVERS went some way to slowing the rate of Laurent Aiello's runaway success in the British Touring Car Championship in yesterday's two races at Donington Park.

James Thompson and David Leslie took the wins after Aiello tripped over another Briton - Jason Plato - in the Sprint race, and finished a close second to his team-mate Leslie in the longer Feature race. Aiello still heads the points chase by a healthy margin, but both Thompson and Leslie are now a little closer.

The Sprint race was full of entertainment. The reigning champion, Rickard Rydell, led away as the pole position man, Thompson, started slowly and, in their wake, Aiello moved across on Plato and crashed heavily into the pit wall. The safety car shepherded the field round as Aiello's wrecked Nissan was moved to a safe place and, on the restart, Rydell, the Swedish Volvo driver, watched by King Carl Gustav of Sweden, headed the field again from Thompson and Plato.

It all went wrong for Rydell , however, as the Volvo started to misfire and he dropped back and eventually retired. Thompson took up the running and Leslie moved ahead of Plato into second place when Plato ran wide at the Old Hairpin. Try as he might Leslie could not dislodge Thompson from the lead and the Honda driver went on to win.

Leslie was second and Plato third as the Vauxhall drivers, Yvan Muller and John Cleland, entertained on their way up the field to fourth and sixth, split by Alain Menu's Ford Mondeo.

The Feature race was effectively decided at the start as the two Nissans of Leslie and Aiello (who had changed swiftly into the team's spare car) moved into the lead, and their most plausible challengers - Thompson and Rydell - were out-dragged by Menu's Ford.

Leslie was in charge throughout, though Aiello haunted his mirrors over the closing stages. Thompson was soon past Menu, but could not close in on the Nissan drivers. Rydell spent most of the race behind the Ford, but did eventually force his way past to take fourth place, with Muller following him through to be fifth ahead of Menu.

Results, Digest, page 5