Rydell's gamble produces profit

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The Independent Online
It was a day of firsts at Brands Hatch for the penultimate round of the British Touring Car Championship. The most significant was the first victory of the season for Volvo in the hands of its favourite son, Rickard Rydell.

The Swede's win yesterday was helped in part by a new qualifying procedure introduced as a result of the cancellation of Saturday's practice. With the grid positions decided by fastest lap times from the day's opening race, Rydell and his TWR team took the gamble to pull out from fifth place in that race, fit new tyres and tilt for the front of the grid.

"It was a risk, but it was worthwhile. We could have finished fourth but we really wanted to have a win," he said. "We expected far more from this year than we have actually achieved."

The same applied to second-placed Anthony Reid. Able to outstrip Rydell for pole position in Round 22, Reid led the field initially before Rydell slipped inside on the third lap. "It was a good move he made, I couldn't respond. But second is my best result of the year and I'm delighted," Reid said.

If he was happy, then Honda driver James Thompson certainly was not. As Audi's Frank Biela stormed to his sixth win of the year in Round 21, Thompson gave chase behind the new champion Alain Menu, the Audi of John Bintcliffe and Jason Plato's Renault.

A move to pass Plato ended with Thompson's car in the pits with a puncture. A similar scenario ensued in the next race when Paul Radoisich's Ford and Menu forced their way by. Plato also tried to find a way through but succeeded in pushing the Honda into a spin.

"I can't believe what he did. It was ridiculous," Thompson said. "There was no way through, he just took me out."

Plato was later sent to the pits after a clash with David Leslie's Nissan and while sitting there was subject to a verbal bashing from Thompson.

It was just one of many incidents in the race, collisions which Biela, the reigning champion, had predicted. "If the organisers will allow people to use races as qualifying sessions, as they did in Round 21, then incidents will happen. It was just organised chaos," he proclaimed.

The reply of the Championship organiser Alan Gow was curt. "The teams were given a vote on the matter, they agreed to the change."

Results, Digest page 23

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