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Rydell survives Croft crash-fest

25 June 2000

Once again Rickard Rydell was in unbeatable form in the feature race at Croft and led the race from start to finish, successfully repelling the efforts of both Alain Menu and Anthony Reid in a race where Ford scored a crushing 1-2-3, result.

It was just as well Rydell was out on his own for most of the race because behind him there was all sorts of action with cars flying off left right and centre, fortunately with no injury to anyone involved save for some badly dented pride.

As in the sprint race Rydell was quick off the line and was able to lead comfortably into turn one. Behind him second place starter Reid also got away well, despite carrying 30kg of ballast, and took up his sprint race position just off Rydell's rear bumper.

Matt Neal was the biggest lap one loser, fluffing his start and then running wide at the chicane which allowed James Thompson and Alain Menu to gain a place over the Nissan.

As the field flashed past the start/finish line to complete their first lap the oreder read Rydell, Reid, Tom Kristensen who maintained his position off the grid, Menu, Thompson, Neal, Gabriele Tarquini, Jason Plato, Yvan Muller and Vincent Radermecker. However the order didn't stay the same for long, as approaching the complex for the second time, Plato suddenly lost control of his car and slammed into the rear of Tarquini with sickening force. It later transpired that the Vectras throttle had stuck open leaving Jason helpless. Both cars slammed into the barriers with great velocity and their cars were beyond immediate repair, however both drivers were soon clambering out and making their way back to the pits while the safety car was deployed.

On the re-start Reid got a run on Rydell into the first corner but Rydell left the Scotsman no room and he wisely decided to back off. All around the lap Reid stayed tucked under the spoiler of his team-mate but could not find the momentum to make another concerted effort. Kristensen remained a safe distance back in third ahead of Menu, Thompson and Neal.

All drivers chose to make their mandatory pit-stops a few laps either side of half distance and all went off without drama. Rydell still led by between two and three seconds while Reid now had a very determined Menu chasing him down, the Swiss driver having got past Kristensen in the pit-stops. However the Honda driver wasn't lying down and he soon began pushing the two Ford drivers very hard in his lighter Accord.

Behind the top fur, another good battle had developed for fifth place between Thompson, Neal and Radermecker, the Nissan and Vauxhall having the added bonus of no weight penalty whereas the Honda was suffering the penalty for his Silverstone sprint race win. Thompson was in fighting form though and with Neal having one eye on his rear view mirror, no pass was forthcoming.

On lap 19, Neal's problem literally disappeared from behind him, approaching the 140mph Sunny corner, Radermecker suffered a component failure on his Vectra which pitched the car sideways sending it into the barrier where it simply rolled through the armco and almost into the woods. The car was nothing more than mangled sheet metal with the barrier not looking much better but thankfully, if a little shaken, Radermecker quickly scrambled clear of his inverted machine.

The organisers had no choice but to stop the race while the armco was repaired, the resulting delay lasting almost an hour, but when the engines were re-fired the story was much the same at the front with Rydell leading.

Menu anticipated the re-start better than everyone and pounced on Reid, snatching second place away from the Scotsman at the first corner. However not even Menu had an answer for Rydell on this day and the Swede cruised home with two seconds to spare over his two team-mates. Behind the three Fords, Kristensen lost a surefire fourth place on the last lap when his front suspension collapsed leaving him in tenth position, the seventh Super Touring machine home.

Kristensen's late demise left the door open for his Honda team-mate Thompson to take fourth although Neal snatched the place in the dying seconds to cap a strong weekend all round for the Independent driver.

Muller came home over a minute behind the leaders in sixth place after an anonymous drive in the sole surviving Vectra. Vauxhall team-boss Derek Warwick was actually moved to say after the race that Croft had been “one of our worst weekends ever in touring cars.” The only thing the team could be grateful about was that they still had three healthy drivers at the end of the day, which is more than can be said for two of the cars, both of which were now decidedly second hand.

Class B provided spectators with a superb race-long duel between Alan Morrison and James Kaye, clearly the two fastest drivers in the class. Morrison was ahead on the grid and held off Kaye in the early laps until the Barwell Honda nipped through as the Super Touring machines made their stops. Morrison wasn't about to give in and fought back with a vengence in the races closing stages. Kaye held on however and crossed the line with a fraction over a second to spare. Robert Collard once again impressed in his Nissan and took third in class, four seconds behind Kaye with Mark Lemmer in the second Barwell Honda fourth in class.

Menu's fine charge through the field is rewarded with the championship lead once again although Reid is but a single point behind, 128 points versus 127.
Rydell's stunning double win moves him right back into the thick of things with 117 points while Muller's lacklustre weekend sees him drop more than 20 points back in fourth place.

The BTCC takes a short break this weekend as the teams and drivers gear up for the Snetterton night races on Saturday July 8th. Last year it was one big party in Norfolk and this year promises to be more of the same.




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