Motor Racing: Warwick chases double: Patrick Miles reports on an Englishman stamping his authority on the Sportscar World Championship circuit

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The Independent Online
LE MANS is the jewel in the crown for sportscar drivers and if Derek Warwick fulfils his own and others' expectations, he will have the 1992 drivers' trophy to add to the one he held aloft after the 24 Hour race in France last month. The Englishman's victory at Le Mans provided a boost to the flagging fortunes of the Sportscar World Championship and the incentive of a cherished double for Warwick.

'People keep asking what is the most important, Le Mans or the championship,' he said. 'Well, today that is very easy to answer. I have won Le Mans, so it's the world championship.' Warwick was on the right track yesterday when he recorded the fastest time in the first qualifying session for tomorrow's fourth round of the series at Donington.

But it is not a growling Jaguar, nor a screaming Mercedes - there is not even a Porsche in sight - which Warwick has been hammering to victory. France has the power at the top end of motor racing these days. Peugeot in sportscars and Renault in Formula One are the dominant forces.

The 3.5-litre Peugeot 905 that Warwick is sharing this weekend with another former grand prix driver, Yannick Dalmas, of France, was humming in practice yesterday. In the process of gathering the overnight pole, Warwick lopped off eight seconds from the 2.5-mile circuit's lap record.

Warwick's time was a remarkable 1min 15.57sec, at an average speed of 119.09mph, which compares with Mauro Baldi's previous mark of 1:23.60 at the wheel of a Mercedes in 1990. Baldi qualified in the second Peugeot yesterday 0.47sec adrift of his team leader.

Warwick is well prepared for a third consecutive victory in the series after success at Silverstone in May and at Le Mans. His main opponents tomorrow will be his team-mates in the second Peugeot, Baldi and Philippe Alliot, and the two Toyotas of Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace and Geoff Lees and David Brabham.

The 37-year-old, who completed a sterling if chequered career in Formula One at the end of the 1990 season, is determined to retain the pole position when qualifying resumes today. 'It was a good lap, but there is more to come,' Warwick said yesterday.

The TOM's Toyota team won the opening round of the championship at Monza after Dalmas had a spin in the leading Peugeot and all the indications are that tomorrow's race will be a straight fight between the Japanese and French marques.

Times, Sport in Short, page 51

Mansell's spin-offs, page 38