April 1998

CHAMP CARS:- British Indycar driver Mark Blundell is aiming to open his season's account in the CART FedEx Championship on Saturday The legendary California seafront circuit of Long Beach provides the first non-oval event of the campaign for the Toyota Grand Prix. Blundell, among the title favourites, has disappointed in the opening two races, finishing 10th and 12th. "Oval racing is exciting but it will be nice to steer in both directions again" the former Formula One driver said.

F.PALMER AUDI:- Felipe Maluhy has completed the line-up of 24 cars for the inaugural Formula Palmer Audi season. "Felipe was really in demand back in Brazil for 1998 and I'm delighted that he has chosen to race in FPA," said Jonathan Palmer.


Testing times for Brands Hatch (Thurs):
 1 R Rydell   Swe  Volvo     44.462
 2 J Thompson GB   Honda     44.530
 3 A Menu     Swi  Renault   44.632
 4 J Plato    GB   Renault   44.735
 5 D Leslie   GB   Nissan    44.779
 6 J Cleland  GB   Vauxhall  44.855
 7 Y Muller   Fr   Audi      44.859
 8 T Harvey   GB   Peugeot   44.892
 9 D Warwick  GB   Vauxhall  44.919
10 P Kox      Hol  Honda     44.964
Official testing at Brands Hatch on Thursday showed that this year's British Touring Cars Championship will be the closest for several seasons. After two days of timed sessions, seven different manufacturers occupied the top eight places. Sweden's Richard Rydell was quickest in his Volvo S40 in 44.462secs with James Thompson's Honda just seven-hundredths of a second slower. Reigning champion Alain Menu was third fastest for Renault.

F3 (Silverstone):- Enrique Bernoldi is looking for his third win in a row in round three of the 1998 campaign on Sunday. The Brazilian was victorious at Donington and Thruxton and will be out to extend his 12-point lead. Martin O'Connell has twice finished runner-up to Bernoldi, while Bernoldi's Promatecme Dallara-Renault team-mate Marc Hynes has been quick in testing. Meanwhile, Paul Stewart Racing pair Luciano Burti and Mario Haberfeld are out to prove other Brazilians can win.

BRITISH GTs:- The 1998 campaign begins on Sunday, with last year's class-winning Porsche GT1, driven by John Morrison and John Greasley expected to lead the way. Steve O'Rourke, in his BMW V12-powered McLaren F1GTR could also do well. Support races at the meeting include the Dunlop National Saloon Cup, Formula Renault Eurocup and Formula Vauxhall. There will also be an appearance by the 760mph Thrust SSC - the world's fastest car in a straight line - which will do a slow lap of honour.

GRANITE CITY RALLY:- The Printagraph Granite City Rally begins in Aberdeen tonight and championship leader Roger Duckworth faces a strong Scottish challenge. Subaru Impreza driver Duckworth won the opening round of the season in February but he will be up against five former winners of this event. Brian Lyall, Jimmy McRae, Andy Horne, Murray Grierson and Graham Middleton are all taking part. Only one Englishman has triumphed in the last eight years.

GLIDDON STAGES RALLY:- Steve Winter is aiming for a second successive win in the Gliddons Somerset Stages of the series on Saturday. However, 1996 victor Derek Cossey has forsaken his Metro 6R4 for an Escort Cosworth in a bid to claim another Somerset triumph. Mitsubishi Lancer driver Theo Bengry and Ian Joel in his Escort Cosworth will also be targeting glory. Paul Wedgbury leads the Gold Star Championship ahead of the fourth round of the event.

CHAMP CARS (Long Beach):- Mark Blundell finished just out of the points in 13th at this circuit last season but is hoping to have better luck this year. He slipped from a top-six position in 1997 after a clutch problem ensured he had to make an extra pitstop. "I tend not to look back on the first half of last year as it was not particularly good for me," he admitted. "My focus is very much on scoring points at every race this year. I will have to stay out of trouble."


F3 (Silverstone):- 
Leading qualifying times (Sat):min secs
 1 M Haberfeld   Mugen-Honda  1:25.924
 2 L Burti       Mugen-Honda  1:26.137
 3 M Hynes       Renault      1:26.684
 4 B Collins     Speiss Opel  1:26.769
 5 E Bernoldi    Renault      1:26.872
 6 W Hughes      Renault      1:27.168
 7 J Spence      Renault      1:27.194
 8 M O'Connell   Toyota       1:27.217
 9 Y Igarashi    Mugen-Honda  1:27.312
10 R Mauricio    Mugen-Honda  1:27.531
Paul Stewart Racing duo Mario Haberfeld and Luciano Burti were fastest in qualifying ahead of Sunday's race. Haberfeld took pole in his Dallara Mugen-Honda with seconds remaining in the final session after Burti had led after the first run-out. Team manager Bruce Jenkins said: "I am delighted to have both guys up front in only the third race of the season. It was a lottery as far as the weather was concerned. We took a gamble on the settings and it paid off."

GRANITE CITY RALLY:- Brian Lyall delighted his home fans by becoming the first man for 21 years to win the Granite Rally twice in a row. Lyall had been battling with fellow Scots Jimmy Paterson and Andy Horne for most of the day before his two rivals fell away. Lyall ultimately won the Aberdeen event in his Subaru by two-and-a-half minutes from Roger Duckworth. Barbara Armstrong won Formula Two in a SEAT Ibiza Kit Car and Andy Kelly took the showroom Group N in an Escort.

Final positions after stage 14:Penalty
 1 Lyall/Forrest  Subaru      1:10:57
 2 D'wrth/B'field Subaru      1:13:12
 3 Smith/James    Escort Cos  1:13:23
 4 Pat'son/C'bell Subaru      1:13:25
 5 P'kirk/Evans   MG Metro    1:13:41
 6 H'rison/J'nkns MG Metro    1:13:44
 7 Horne/Howie    MG Metro    1:13:46
 8 Carty/Bell     MG Metro    1:13:56
 9 Grierson/Merry Subaru      1:14:18
10 Kelly/Campbell Escort Cos  1:14:34

GLIDDON STAGES RALLY:- Steve Winter won the Gliddons Somerset Stages for the second year running. Theo Bengry had opened up an early lead in his Mitsubishi E3 but Winter plugged away to take the glory after 12 stages in his MG Metro 6R4. Bengry blew his chance after a disastrous tyre choice for the Porlock Toll Road stages of the event and Winter capitalised on his mistake. Tenth spot made Kevin Stevens the first English rally champion in his Group N Escort Cosworth.

Gliddons Somerset stages Rally:
Top 10 after 1 stage:         mins secs
 1 T Bengry       Mitsubishi      9.53
 2 S Winter       MG Metro       10.04
 3 I Joel         Escort C'swrth 10.15
 4 J Ballinger    Opel Manta     10.20
 5 S Crook        Ford Sierra    10:23
 6 A Rowe         Peugeot        10:26
 7 A Kent         Peugeot        10:29
 8 R Spry         Ford Escort    10:31
 9 M Meadows      Proton Compact 10:32
10 M Price        Ford Escort    10:33

Rally result (Sat):            mins secs
 1 S Winter       MG Metro       48.56
 2 T Bengry       Mitsubishi     49.19
 3 J Ballinger    Opel Manta     50.18
 4 D Cossey       Escort C'swrth 50.47
 5 A Kent         Peugeot        50.56
 6 M Price        Ford Escort    51.28
 7 D Hutchinson   Peugeot        51.41
 8 R Spry         Escort V8      52.49
 9 P Wedgebury    Peugeot        52.50
10 K Stevens      Escort Cos     52.51

CHAMP CARS (Long Beach)
Friday qualifying times:     lap time
 1 B Herta      US  Ford Cos   50.945
 2 B Rahal      US  Ford Cos   51.036
 3 A Fernandez  Mex Ford Cos   51.057
 4 G Salles     Chl Ford Cos   51.076
 5 G de Ferran  Brz Honda      51.092
 6 M Andretti   US  Ford Cos   51.293
 7 S Pruett     US  Ford       51.302
 8 D Franchitti GB  Honda      51.366
 9 P Tracy      US  Honda      51.391
10 A Unser Jnr  US  Mercedes   51.426
23 M Blundell   GB  Mercedes   52.196
Britain's Mark Blundell was 23rd fastest after the first qualifying session for Sunday's race. The ex-Formula One star was disappointed and said: "It has not been an easy day for us. We have been struggling to get a good balance and we have not got there yet. Long Beach is a very twisty, bumpy and tight circuit. We have another session, so I am confident we will make progress." Scot Dario Franchitti was eighth quickest.


Provisional results - race 6 (Sun):
                        Mins Secs  Laps
 1 Greasley  GT1 Porsche  50:05.601 33
 2 O'Rourke  GT1 McLaren  50:09.430 33
 3 Morris    GT2 Lotus    50:10.018 32
 4 Flux      GT1 Lister   50:23.972 32
 5 Thyrring  GT1 Porsche  50:35.799 32
 6 Luby      GT2 Chrysler 51:01.864 32
 7 Quaife    GT1 Ford     51:06.122 32
 8 Hewland   GT1 Lister   51:07.355 32
 9 Lister    GT2 Porsche  50:13.507 31
10 Day       GT2 Porsche  50:20.052 31

F3:- Mario Haberfeld of Paul Stewart racing held off Enrique Bernoldi to take the the third round of the championship and break the championship leader's run. After qualifying on pole in his Dallara Mugen-Honda, Haberfeld dropped to third on the first lap before working his way back to the front. Bernoldi moved into second at a quarter distance and pressed Haberfeld during the second half of the 20 lap race. Haberfeld held on to break Bernoldi's chance of a hat-trick of wins.

CHAMP CARS:- Scotland's Dario Franchitti will start Sunday's race in California from eighth place on the grid. American Bryan Herta claimed pole after Saturday's qualifying session was hit by rain and Friday's times could not be improved upon. Franchitti opens the race from the fourth row in his Kool Green Reynard Honda after posting a time of 51.366. England's Mark Blundell qualified 23rd fastest for the third round of the Fedex Championship series in 52.196.

Final qualifying times:      lap time
 1 B Herta      US  Ford Cos   50.945
 2 B Rahal      US  Ford Cos   51.036
 3 A Fernandez  Mex Ford Cos   51.057
 4 G Salles     Chl Ford Cos   51.076
 5 G de Ferran  Brz Honda      51.092
 6 M Andretti   US  Ford Cos   51.293
 7 S Pruett     US  Ford       51.302
 8 D Franchitti GB  Honda      51.366
 9 P Tracy      US  Honda      51.391
10 A Unser Jnr  US  Mercedes   51.426
23 M Blundell   GB  Mercedes   52.196

Damon Hill won in Argentina for Williams in 1995 and 1996 but victory would appear to be a tall order after two disappointing races for Jordan. The ex-world champion finished pointless in Melbourne but hopes were high in Brazil after promising test times ahead of the race. Hill did finish - again with no points - but was later disqualified because his car was underweight. Team-mate Ralf Schumacher was third in Buenos Aires last year.

Tyrrell will try out wider front tyres on Sunday and are confident the change will help Ricardo Rosset and Toranosuke Takagi finish the race. Gearbox damage ended Rosset's previous two races but he insisted: "I did enough laps in Brazil to know that the car feels in good race trim. There is reason to feel optimistic about the rest of the season." Takagi's engine also failed in Brazil but he added: "Hopefully, I can complete a full distance in Argentina."

Argentina's Buenos Aires circuit is 2.64 miles long (4.259km) and the race is 72 laps. Buenos Aires used to be the traditional opener for the season but it lost its world championship status in 1981. After major changes and redevelopment, made a return in 1995. Italy's Alberto Ascari won the first Argentine Grand Prix in 1953. National hero Juan Manuel Fangio then claimed four straight wins.

Arrows driver Mika Salo is not a fan of the Buenos Aires track. "I think of it as a Mickey Mouse circuit," he said. "It is a very modern circuit, very bumpy, with only first and second gear corners to be experienced." Prost star Jarno Trulli says the circuit reminds him of a karting track because of its small size and the succession of slow corners. "I hope to qualify well because it is difficult to overtake," he said. "I really hope to finish."

1997 race result:
1 J Villeneuve  Can Williams
2 E Irvine      GB  Ferrari
3 R Schumacher  Ger Jordan
4 J Herbert     GB  Sauber
5 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren
6 G Berger      Aut Benetton
Fastest lap: G Berger 1 min 27.961 secs

Round three of the season takes place on Sunday, with McLaren threatening to dominate the championship as they did 10 years ago. Not only were Alain Prost and the late Ayrton Senna making McLaren world- beaters but they also had their own private battle to be number one. The rivalry between Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard appears tame in comparison to their predecessors. However, you can be sure that the relaxed smiles hide the same ambitions.

Mika Hakkinen is chasing his fourth straight win on Sunday ` after this season's Australia and Brazil triumphs and the 1997 win at Jerez. McLaren team-mate David Coulthard was runner-up in those three races but will be looking to taste victory himself. Hakkinen said: "Obviously I go into the race with plenty of confidence, although I think it will our toughest race of the season so far. "I think round such a tight circuit it will be a lot closer."

World champion Jacques Villeneuve needs a repeat of last year's victory in Argentina if he is to peg back some points from the magnificent McLarens. However, he does not rate the circuit and revealed: "You do not get any speed at this track. "It is just corner after corner, with hairpins and tight chicanes, although there are a few nice bends." Williams team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen added: "I am sure we can make another step forward before Imola."

Michael Schumacher is hoping that developments to his Ferrari will soon put him in touch with the McLarens. The German was third at Interlagos and admitted: "We did the best we could do with the equipment we had. Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do if we are going to put up a serious challenge. We have new tyres coming for Argentina and we may try a new exhaust system in testing, although we will not run it in a race before Imola."

TOURING CARS:- The 1998 British Touring Car Championship begins on Sunday and Monday and the season could be one of the most competitive for years. Thruxton is the quickest circuit in Britain, with the BTCC qualifying lap record average speed exceeding 111mph. Alain Menu will be defending his title while ex-Formula One star Nigel Mansell will have three drives for Ford. The new one-shot showdown qualifying system and feature race pitstops will be tried for the first time.

Current champion Alain Menu is aiming to make history by becoming the first driver of the modern era to win back-to back titles. "I am fired up and waiting to go," said the Swiss star. "My aim is to defend my crown but it will not be easy. The Laguna is now entering its fifth season and some of the others will have made up ground over the winter. However, Thruxton is one of the tracks where a driver can make a real difference to his car's performance."

Honda, Volvo and Audi look set to be the teams capable of stopping Renault taking the glory this year after shining in pre-season testing. Former world sportscar champion Derek Warwick's Triple 8 team have revitalised the Vauxhall Vectra. He revealed: "We are not yet shouting from the rooftops but we are much more confident going into this season." Warwick lives near Thruxton and added: "We want to repay the faith Vauxhall have shown and be on the podium."

Gianni Morbidelli is relishing the prospect of facing ex-Formula One team- mate Nigel Mansell this year. The pair were team-mates with Ferrari nearly 10 years ago but are rivals in the BTCC. Mansell will make three appearances for Ford, while Morbidelli will contest the whole 26-race series for Volvo. "Nigel was like a second father to me during our time at Ferrari," said Morbidelli. "I am really looking forward to driving against him."

Nissan go into their second BTCC season with hopes high after David Leslie produced promising times at a recent test session at Brands Hatch. General manager Alec Poole said: "Last year was our first season and we had to develop the car as we went along. This year we have put more emphasis on pre-season testing." Leslie's team-mate Anthony Reid added: "By the end of last year the Primera was closer to the championship-winning Laguna than any other car."

Independent entry DC Cook Motorsport will begin their maiden campaign with hopes high of creating some upsets. Norwegian Tommy Rustad has reguarly driven his Renault Laguna into the top 10 during pre-season testing. Team manager Paul Haigh said: "He is a natural born racer and is very quick. He just loves to drive. If you consider he has been among the manufacturer-backed works test teams when they have more powerful engines, he must be doing something right."

CHAMP CARS:- Scotland's Dario Franchitti came with a flying finish to claim second place behind Alex Zanardi. Franchitti, driving a Reynard-Honda like Zanardi, recorded his best career finish after starting in eighth place. Both drivers came with a late burst to pass long-time leader Bryn Herta with two laps to go. Mark Blundell also put in a strong surge to take seventh in a Reynard- Mercedes after starting from 23rd position on the grid.

F1:- Jordan insist there is no crisis within the Silverstone-based team, despite Damon Hill's lack of success this year. The former world champion was tipped to give Jordan their first grand prix win but he has not won any points and was disqualified after the Brazil race. His car was found to be underweight and commercial director Ian Phillips said: "Everybody was gutted after Brazil and every aspect must be closely looked at. Nobody is pressing any panic buttons. We believe in ourselves."

ISRS:- The RAC Tourist Trophy at Donington Park will be Britain's only round in the FIA-sanctioned International Sports Series for the next three years. This year's race, which is run over two-and-a-half hours, will take place on July 19.

F.RENAULT (Thruxton):- Britain's Doug Bell was second fastest behind Brazilian Aluizio Coelho in testing ahead of round one of the championship on Monday. Gaving Jones' Ermolli headed the Star Cup division for old cars in sixth.

Leading times:
1 A Coelho      Brz Tatuus     1:14.729
2 D Bell        GB  Tatuus     1:15.600
3 V Meira       Brz Van Diemen 1:15.608
4 T Sri'chvanon Th  Tatuus     1:15.988
5 P Edwards     US  Tatuus     1:16.354
6 G Jones       GB  Ermolli    1:16.690

RENAULT SPIDER CUP:- David Shaw was fastest in testing for Monday's opening round of the series. Shaw is one of six former Thruxton winners in the competition. Spider newcomer Duncan Vercoe was fourth fastest at the Hampshire circuit.

Leading times:    min secs
1 D Shaw          1:25.643
2 N Hart          1:26.268
3 J Hunter        1:26.333
4 D Vercoe        1:26.781
5 S Hill          1:27.051
6 D Henderson     1:27.294

09.04.98 - F1
World champion Jacques Villeneuve has to kickstart his defence in Argentina this Sunday if he is to have a chance of retaining his title. Villeneuve is already 18 points behind championship leader Mika Hakkinen but he said: "I will never give up the chase for the championship. I am looking forward to using the new Goodyear tyre in Argentina and am sure we can make another step forward." Villeneuve claimed an important victory in Buenos Aires 12 months ago.

David Coulthard boosted his victory hopes as he outpaced McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen in Friday's practice. Coulthard clocked the fastest time with Hakkinen suffering his first setback of the season when he spun off late on. Hakkinen found himself trapped in the gravel as he tried to force the pace in the closing minutes and improve on his third place. Michael Schumacher took second spot while Jacques Villeneuve was fourth and Damon Hill ninth.

Friday's leading free practice times:
                              mins secs
 1 D Coulthard    GB  McLaren  1:28.130
 2 M Schumacher   Ger Ferrari  1:29.114
 3 M Hakkinen     Fin McLaren  1:29.488
 4 J Villeneuve   Can Williams 1:29.610
 5 E Irvine       GB  Ferrari  1:29.781
 6 R Schumacher   Ger Jordan   1:29.845
 7 T Takagi       Jpn Tyrrell  1:30.054
 8 H-H Frentzen   Ger Williams 1:30.317
 9 D Hill         GB  Jordan   1:30.645
10 J Alesi        Fr  Sauber   1:30.859
11 G Fisichella   It  Benetton 1:30.963
12 J Herbert      GB  Sauber   1:31.081
13 O Panis        Fr  Prost    1:31.297
14 J Trulli       It  Prost    1:31.428
15 R Barrichello  Brz Stewart  1:31.727
16 R Rosset       Brz Tyrrell  1:31.761
17 A Wurz         Aut Benetton 1:31.850
18 M Salo         Fin Arrows   1:32.257
19 P Diniz        Brz Arrows   1:32.660
20 S Nakano       Jpn Minardi  1:33.390
21 E Tuero        Arg Minardi  1:33.731
22 J Magnussen    Den Stewart  1:34.829

TOURING CARS:- Peugeot drivers Tim Harvey and Paul Radisich have high hopes for the weekend's opening rounds of the BTCC at Thruxton. With heavy rain forecast on race day, the Peugeot pair have much confidence in the 406, which has a good track record in the wet. "Judging from the conditions predicted and the recent test times, I think the team has a good chance," said Radisich. Qualifying takes place on Easter Sunday with rounds one and two on Monday.

Thursday's official testing times:
                            mins secs
 1 J Thompson   GB  Honda    1:16.54
 2 A Menu       Swi Renault  1:16.89
 3 R Rydell     Swe Volvo    1:17.11
 4 J Plato      GB  Renault  1:17.17
 5 D Warwick    GB  Vauxhall 1:17.51
 6 W Hoy        GB  Ford     1:17.57
 7 T Harvey     GB  Peugeot  1:17.59
 8 J Cleland    GB  Vauxhall 1:17.62
 9 A Reid       GB  Nissan   1:17.73
10 D Leslie     GB  Nissan   1:17.74

David Coulthard moved out of the shadow of his McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen to claim pole position for Sunday's Argentine Grand Prix. Hakkinen is going for his fourth straight victory but was only third quickest after qualifying. Ex-world champion Michael Schumacher was second quickest and his Ferrari team-mate Eddie Irvine produced a superb drive to be fourth on the grid. Ralf Schumacher will start in fifth, with Jordan team-mate Damon Hill ninth.

Scottish star David Coulthard was delighted that his title ambitions are back on track after he claimed pole for Sunday's race. "It is a great feeling to be back on pole," he admitted. "It almost feels like a race victory rather than just having the right to start a few metres ahead. It is what I wanted because it is frustrating coming second all the time. What I need now is to ensure I come out of the first corner in front."

Jordan's Ralf Schumacher will be fifth on the grid for Sunday's race after a superb qualifying session. "This is a great result," he said. "I feel annoyed with myself as well as happy because I came so close to doing even better." His Jordan team-mate Damon Hill was far from pleased with ninth place. "I am pleased for Ralf but I am not happy with my own performance," he said. "I threw away my last lap, which would have been quicker."

Saturday's qualifying times:  mins secs
 1 D Coulthard    GB  McLaren  1:25.852
 2 M Schumacher   Ger Ferrari  1:26.251
 3 M Hakkinen     Fin McLaren  1:26.632
 4 E Irvine       GB  Ferrari  1:26.780
 5 R Schumacher   Ger Jordan   1:26.827
 6 H-H Frentzen   Ger Williams 1:26.876
 7 J Villeneuve   Can Williams 1:26.941
 8 A Wurz         Aut Benetton 1:27.198
 9 D Hill         GB  Jordan   1:27.483
10 G Fisichella   It  Benetton 1:27.836
11 J Alesi        Fr  Sauber   1:27.839
12 J Herbert      GB  Sauber   1:28.016
13 T Tagaki       Jpn Tyrrell  1:28.811
14 R Barrichello  Brz Stewart  1:29.249
15 O Panis        Fr  Prost    1:29.320
16 J Trulli       It  Prost    1:29.352
17 M Salo         Fin Arrows   1:29.617
18 P Diniz        Brz Arrows   1:30.022
19 S Nakano       Jpn Minardi  1:30.054
20 E Tuero        Arg Minardi  1:30.158
21 R Rosset       Brz Tyrrell  1:30.437
22 J Magnussen    Den Stewart  1:31.178

TOUR OF EPYNT RALLY:- John Price won the event for the second year in a succession. The rally was curtailed by snow but Price arrived back at the finish 10 seconds ahead of Tony Davies. Conditions forced the departure of Tony Jenetta and John Brodie, who both suffered accidents on the opener as the tarmac stages were rendered treacherous Chris Griffiths had to retire in his Subaru because of transmission failure, while Steve Hendy decided to head for home for fear of the dangerous track.

Result:                 mins secs
1 J Price      Metro       43:32
2 T Davies     Metro       43:42
3 C Wood       Metro       45:10
4 D Turnbull   Escort      45:46
5 T Rooke      Escort      46:36
6 S Allen      Metro       47:35

Race result from Oschersleben:hr min sec
 1 S Sarrazin  Fr  Apomatox  1:24.52.38
 2 N Heidfeld  Ger West Comp 1:25.03.66
 3 P Ruberti   It  Prema P   1:25.25.60
 4 J Davies    GB  DAMS      1:25.29.87
 5 T Biagi     It  Coloni M  1:25.32.88
 6 C Sauvage   Fr  GP Racing 1:25.42.85
 7 G Mazzacane SA  Astromaga 1:25.45.68
 8 J Watt      Den Den BA    1:26.12.80
 9 B Godin     Can Durango F 1:26.14.74
10 R Aguas *   Por AS Racing 1:24.56.38
* One lap down

Michael Schumacher ended McLaren's and Mika Hakkinen's run of race wins by claiming his first victory of 1998. However, his triumph was not without controversy as he collided with race leader David Coulthard on lap five and the Scot dropped back to sixth. Schumacher took the lead and he and Hakkinen juggled the number one place between them until the German emerged from his final pitstop in front. Schumacher's Ferrari team-mate Eddie Irvine was behind the Finn in third.

David Coulthard has blasted Michael Schumacher after the Scot's hopes of victory ended after a collision with the German. "I was angry," said Coulthard. "I have only got one point from a weekend that could have brought me 10 and that is a bitter pill to swallow. I do not think it was up to me at that instance to give way to him. He should have backed off to avoid contact. I do not believe it is in the spirit of Formula One."

Michael Schumacher was rightly blamed for his antics in Jerez last season but insists he is blameless after his colision with David Coulthard. The Scot drifted off the racing line at the Curvon corner on lap five but as he tried to close the door on the German he was hit from behind. He dropped to sixth and Schumacher said: "He left no room to go but I did not want to lift off the pedal. The car was damaged after that which made it not nice to drive."

World champion Jacques Villeneuve's hopes ended after he clipped the back of David Coulthard's McLaren. The Canadian was forced to retire but Coulthard went on to finish sixth after starting the race on pole. It was a disaster for constructors' champions Williams as Heinz-Harald Frentzen could only finish ninth and so they finished without any points. Rookie Alexander Wurz looked set for third spot until he locked his wheels late on and dropped to fourth.

Eddie Irvine earned a superb third place after being in agony for much of the 72-lap race. The aluminium bar he had fitted into the cockpit to stop his knees knocking forced his way between his legs. "It was the first time I had used it," he said. "I had it fitted to stop my knees going from side to side. It got loose at the fast corner early on and kept pushing its way between my legs. It is amazing how much a distraction it caused."

Britain's Johnny Herbert admitted his weekend had been a "total disaster" after Damon Hill went into the back of his Sauber on lap 48. Hill put the brakes on too late and although he was able to restart the race with a new wing to finish eighth, Herbert went out with a shredded tyre. Herbert said: "Damon should know you do not do that from that far back. This weekend has been a total disaster. Only a plane crash on the way home would make it worse."

Former world champion Damon Hill earned another race finish but still failed to win any points for Jordan. He said: "I initially made up a few places at the start but then lost them all again at the first corner, so ended up back where I started. I ended up racing Johnny Herbert and he opened the door, so I went to put the car down the inside and he just chopped across me. Eighth place is not much good to me. I am not happy with nothing so far."

Mika Hakkinen's second place still gives him a clear lead over Michael Schumacher in the drivers' race. However, he admitted: "I have struggled all weekend. I could have pushed harder in the closer stages but not without risking my six points." Stewart's Rubens Barrichello was 10th but Jan Magnussen retired on lap 18. Team boss Paul Stewart said: "Two top 10 finishes in a row is an important achievement. Without Ruben's second pitstop we could have been higher."

Jordan's Ralf Schumacher was forced to retire because of rear suspension problems but had had a poor start after being fifth on the grid. He said: "I slipped the clutch and the wheels spun, so I had a really bad start which left me in 13th position." Prost's Jarno Trulli was 11th and Olivier Panis was forced to pull out of the race on lap 66. Team supremo Alain Prost said: "We would have seen a completely different race if we had had better grid places."

Result after 72 laps:        hr min sec
 1 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari  1:48.36.1
 2 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren  1:48.59.0
 3 E Irvine      GB  Ferrari  1:49.33.9
 4 A Wurz        Aut Benetton 1:49.44.3
 5 J Alesi       Fr  Sauber   1:49.54.4
 6 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren  1:49.55.9
 7 G Fisichella  It  Benetton 1:50.04.6
 8 D Hill        GB  Jordan     one lap
 9 H-H Frentzen  Ger Williams   one lap
10 R Barrichello Brz Stewart   two laps
11 J Trulli      It  Prost     two laps
12 T Tagaki      Jpn Tyrrell   two laps
13 S Nakano      Jpn Minardi three laps
14 R Rosset      Brz Tyrrell  four laps
15 O Panis       Fr  Prost   seven laps

Did not finish/not classified:
16 E Tuero       Arg Minardi    63 laps completed
17 J Villeneuve  Can Williams   52 laps
18 J Herbert     GB  Sauber     46 laps
19 R Schumacher  Ger Jordan     22 laps
20 M Salo        Fin Arrows     18 laps
21 J Magnussen   Den Stewart    17 laps
22 P Diniz       Brz Arrows     13 laps

1 M Hakkinen    Fin  McLaren   26 pts
2 M Schumacher  Ger  Ferrari   14
3 D Coulthard   GB   McLaren   13
4 E Irvine      GB   Ferrari    7
5 H-H Frentzen  Ger  Williams   6
= A Wurz        Aut  Benetton   6
7 J Villeneuve  Can  Williams   2
= J Alesi       Fr   Sauber     2
9 J Herbert     GB   Sauber     1
= G Fisichella  It   Benetton   1

1 McLaren-Mercedes      39 pts
2 Ferrari               21
3 Williams-Mecachrome    8
4 Benetton               7
5 Sauber-Petronas        3

TOURING CARS:- Rickard Rydell claimed a qualifying lap record ahead of Monday's action with a blistering riding display. He set the fastest ever Super Touring qualifying lap for round one with a time of 1 minute 15.60 seconds at an average speed of 112.18mph. The Swede started the day by outpacing the Anthony Reid and reigning champion Alain Menu to earn pole. In the One-Shot showdown qualifying procedure for Monday's feature race he went faster to outgun James Thompson.

Qualifying times for round two (Sun): mins secs
 1 R Rydell     Swe Volvo      1:15.78
 2 A Reid       GB  Nissan     1:16.18
 3 A Menu       Swi Renault    1:16.34
 4 J Thompson   GB  Honda      1:16.58
 5 D Leslie     GB  Nissan     1:16.62
 6 J Plato      GB  Renault    1:16.71
 7 J Cleland    GB  Vauxhall   1:16.83
 8 D Warwick    GB  Vauxhall   1:17.02
 9 P Kox        NL  Honda      1:17.25
10 P Radisich   NZ  Peugeot    1:17.41

FIA GTs:- Mercedes claimed the championship's first ever one-two-three in the opening round of the 1998 series in Germany. Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta won the race, Marcel Tiemann and Jean-Marc Gounon were second and Bernd Schneider and Mark Webber were third. Ludwig said: "The result shows we have found another diamond in Ricardo Zonta. I was impressed by both his speed and maturity. The team's pitwork was excellent and was an important part of the win."

F.RENAULT:- Brazilian Aluizio Coelho claimed pole position for round one of the championship with the series' fastest ever lap at the Hampshire track. Gavin Jones headed the Star Cup division for year-old cars in eighth.

                             min secs
1 A Coelho     Brz Tatuus    1:14.055
2 D Bell       GB  Tatuus    1:14.666
3 T Mullen     GB  V Diemen  1:14.731
4 T Sri'chvnon Th  Tatuus    1:14.875
5 V Meira      Brz V Diemen  1:14.909
6 C Clark      GB  Tatuus    1:15.354
8 G Jones      GB  Ermolli   1:16.012

RENAULT SPIDERS:- David Shaw will be in pole position for round one of the event on Monday. Nick Hart was second fastest in qualifying and Simon Hill was sixth, despite driving with a bandaged right wrist after a testing accident.

Leading times:  min secs
1 D Shaw        1:24.998
2 N Hart        1:25.044
3 J Hunter      1:25.453
4 D Vercoe      1:25.492
5 D Eaves       1:25.504
6 S Hill        1:26.398

FORD FIESTA'S:- Rae Claydon will start the opening round of the Championship on Monday from pole position on the grid. Claydon lapped the 2.356-mile circuit narrowly ahead of pre-season title favourite Alan Morrison.

Leading times:  min secs
1 R Claydon     1:36.578
2 A Morrison    1:37.089
3 C Stancombe   1:37.103
4 N Hose        1:37.422
5 S Clarke      1:37.465
6 N Gordon      1:37.842

F.FORD:- Derek Hayes left it until the last 10 minutes of qualifying before snatching pole for Monday's opening round. Hayes just pipped Haywood Racing team- mate Jenson Button who had headed the times for much of the session.

Leading times:  min secs
1 D Hayes       1:19.077
2 J Button      1:19.114
3 D Weldon      1:19.814
4 C Murray      1:19.903
5 P Morland     1:19.916
6 R V-d Ende    1:20.021

F1:- David Coulthard has buried the hatchet with Michael Schumacher after their shunt in the Argentine Grand Prix but the German has refused to say sorry. Coulthard's victory hopes were ruined in the lap five crash but Schumacher went on to win in Buenos Aires. "Schumacher did not apologise but there are no hard feelings and we have agreed to disagree," said Coulthard. "He had his opinions of what happened and I have mine, but he did appreciate my point of view."

TOURING CARS:- Rickard Rydell and Alain Menu were both winners in the opening rounds of this year's championship. Rydell, who gained extra points by virtue of his pole for both races, lost his advantage at the start, but his win gives him an eight point lead. In the longer second race, Rydell made a much better start, but Menu reduced the gap to less than a second within four laps and by lap nine he led. He lost the advantage at a pit stop, but regained it with six laps to go.

Monday's Round 1 result:      mins secs
 1 R Rydell     Swe Volvo     21:01.194
 2 J Plato      GB  Renault   21:02.231
 3 J Thompson   GB  Honda     21:03.020
 4 J Cleland    GB  Vauxhall  21:08.023
 5 A Menu       Swi Renault   21:08.165
 6 G Morbidelli It  Volvo     21:08.839
 7 D Leslie     GB  Nissan    21:11.219
 8 A Reid       GB  Nissan    21:20.533
 9 Y Muller     Fr  Audi      21:24.033
10 P Kox        Hol Honda     21:24.013

Monday's Round 2 result:      mins secs
 1 A Menu       Swi Renault   42:43.116
 2 R Rydell     Swe Volvo     42:45.716
 3 J Thompson   GB  Honda     43:23.626
 4 J Plato      GB  Renault   43:26.106
 5 D Warwick    GB  Vauxhall  43:30.009
 6 J Cleland    GB  Vauxhall  43:32.375
 7 P Kox        Hol Honda     43:33.453
 8 P Radisich   NZ  Peugeot   43:48.381
 9 J Bintcliffe GB  Audi      43:56.269
10 M Neal       GB  Nissan    42:46.043 @ 1 lap

F.RENAULT:- Brazilian Aluizio Coelho set a new lap record as he won round one of the Formula Renault Sport Championship. His teammate Doug Bell was second after passing Tim Mullen late in the race.

                            min secs
1 A Coelho     Brz Tatuus   17:38.091
2 D Bell       GB  Tatuus   17:48.150
3 T Mullen     GB  V Diemen 17:53.546
4 V Meira      Brz V Diemen 17:57.044
5 J Font       Sp  Tatuus   18:08.017
6 C Clark      GB  Tatuus   18:08.127
Star Cup
9 R Kerr       GB  Tatuus   18:12.423

RENAULT SPIDERS:- Daniel Eaves enjoyed a clear run to the finish line after pole winner David Shaw retired with engine trouble. Jamie Hunter led in the early stages, but eventually had to be content with second after a mistake saw him drop down the field.

               mins secs
1 D Eaves      17:21.695
2 J Hunter     17:23.328
3 D Vercoe     17:26.990
4 N Hart       17:27.181
5 D Henderson  17:27.392
6 S Hill       17:37.992

FORD FIESTA'S:- Alan Morrison won a frantic duel for victory after pole starter Rae Claydon led the opening skirmishes. Morrison said: "It was a good clean race and it could have been anybody's up until the last lap."

               mins secs
1 A Morrison   19:36.611
2 R Claydon    19:36.816
3 S Clarke     19:38.658
4 C Stancombe  19:40.466
5 J Levy       19:55.542
6 N Gordon     19:57.850

F.FORD:- Craig Murray dominated the first round of the Championship as he stormed to victory ahead of Derek Hayes. Murray overtook Hayes in the first lap and never relinquished the lead to give his Mark Gardner Racing team their first win.

Leading times:  min secs
1 C Murray      18:34.521
2 D Hayes       18:41.088
3 J Button      18:41.317
4 M Ambrose     18:55.165
5 R Collard     19:00.124
6 T Field       19:00.015

14.04.98 - TOURING CARS
Alain Menu has welcomed this season's rule changes even though they cost him points at Thruxton on Monday. The drivers' champion had to start back in 17th place for the 'sprint race' after the new 'one-shot' showdown which forms the grid. His qualifying lap time was disallowed after he missed out the chicane. "It's fair enough, rules are rules," he said. "The new procedure was designed to spice up the action. It's just a pity it was me who suffered this time."

CATALUNYA RALLY:- Mitsubishi are targeting their second consecutive victory in this event, with world champion Tommi Makkinen triumphing for the team last year. He will drive the new Evolution V, which is making its rally debut on Monday, while Richard Burns will drive the latest version of the Carisma GT. Uwe Nittel will drive the older version of the Carisma GT. Makkinen said: "I think we can do very well this year. My new Lancer seems very good on asphalt roads."

Oxfordshire-based Richard Burns believes that the Catalunya Rally, which begins on Monday, will be a closely-fought affair. Mitsubishi driver Burns, who is third in the standings, said: "Competition is so close that I do not think there will be any decisive factors. Everyone will get up to the limit pretty quickly. I do not think there is a clear favourite, which is good. I want to be in the top three. I will be frustrated with anything less."

Colin McRae will be looking to make up for lost time in Spain. After a number of setbacks in the early events, the Scot won the Portuguese Rally in his Subaru to get his title ambitions back on track. However, he will face stiff opposition ` not least from championship leader Carlos Sainz, who will be competing on home territory. The fifth round of the world championship features 19 times stages, totalling 250 miles.

Subaru have signed up Jarno Kytolehto in a bid to win a fourth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship. Kytolehto, and co-driver Arto Kapanen, will contest the Neste Rally in Finland in August. "I am very happy about this challenge because for me Subaru is one of the best cars out there," said Kytolehto. "It is vital that we begin our testing programme as soon as possible to get used to the car properly. I am quietly confident we can do a good job."

JAPANESE F3:- Scotland's Peter Dumbreck has moved his base to Japan in a bid to land a Formula One drive by 2000. The 24-year-old was third in last year's British Formula Three Championship and leads the All-Japan Formula Three Championship. He is out to extend his advantage in the second round of the series in Tsukuba on Sunday. "It was either Japan or Germany," he said. "I chose Japan as it is a better stepping stone to a higher level."

RENAULT SPIDERS:- David Shaw waited until the final hour of testing before narrowly pipping Nick Hart to the fastest opening time. Last year's champion Bryce Wilson was involved with set up work for his team and finished third, while first round winner Dan Eaves finished fifth.

Testing times:   mins  secs
1 D Shaw           1:18.348
2 N Hart           1:18.375
3 B Wilson         1:18.386
4 J Hunter         1:18.506
5 D Eaves          1:18.759
6 D Henderson      1:18.831

F.RENAULT:- Championship leader Aluizio Coelho took 1.5 seconds off the lap record to head testing at Donington on Friday. Teammates Doug Bell and Tor Sriachavanon clinched the next two places, while Chris Buncombe was the best STar Cup runner in overall sixth.

Times:                  mins  secs
1 A Coelho    Tatuus      1:08.532
2 D Bell      Tatuus      1:09.187
3 T S'chvanon Tatuus      1:09.512
4 T Mullen    Van Diemen  1:09.544
5 J Bender    Van Diemen  1:10.090
6 C Buncombe  Tatuus      1:10.109

CATALUNYA RALLY:- Frenchman Didier Auriol opened up a commanding lead after seven stages of the Catalunya rally, the fifth leg of the World Championship. Auriol, driving a Toyota Corolla, holds a 16.8-second advantage over Spaniard Jesus Puras in a Citroen Xsara. "It was a perfect day for me today with no problems at all," said Auriol, who is chasing his 18th championship win. Belgian Bruno Thiry held third position while Britain's Richard Burns was fifth in his Mitsubishi Lancer.

Positions after stage 7 (end of day 1)
                            hrs mins sec
 1 D Auriol    Fr  Toyota     1:19.03.8
 2 J Puras     Sp  Citroen    1:19.20.6
 3 B Thiry     Bel Ford       1:19.25.1
 4 G Panizzi   Fr  Peugeot    1:19.26.7
 5 R Burns     GB  Mitsubishi 1:19.30.3
 6 P Bugalski  Fr  Citroen    1:19.34.0
 7 F Loix      Bel Toyota     1:19.40.9
 8 C Sainz     Sp  Toyota     1:19.48.0
 9 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi 1:19.51.9
10 C McRae     GB  Subaru     1:20.04.8

DUKERIES RALLY:- The Dukeries Rally will be held on June 20 and will be sponsored for a third year by Sutton Auto Factors. The event features 11 special stages covering some 45 miles of forestry tracks and is the premier rally in the east Midlands.

GERMAN TOURING CARS:- Opel claimed a double in the STW Championship (German Super Touring Cars) in Hockenheim. Uwe Alzen led a Vectra one-two in the sprint race, ahead of Manuel Reuter, who then won the main race.

Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard will be aiming to give McLaren their first Imola victory since 1991 when Ayrton Senna triumphed in San Marino. Of course Imola and Senna were to be tragically linked in 1994 when the Brazilian lost his life at the circuit while driving for Williams. Williams have dominated the top spot on the podium in recent years and will be aiming to recapture that sort of form. The Oxfordshire-based team scored no points in the last race in Argentina.

Mika Hakkinen leads the championship by 12 points and is confident of defending that advantage as the drivers prepare for the first European race of 1998. "I am not too worried about going back to Europe," said the Finn. "Imola is a different type of circuit to Argentina and I am sure we will improve the car. The tyre situation is now closer to what we would expect. I cannot say yet what Imola will be like from the point of view of tyres but I believe we can do a good job."

Ferrari have not won at Imola since Patrick Tambay was victorious in 1983 but the tifosi will be hoping Michael Schumacher can end that drought. The circuit is just a few miles from the Ferrari factory and Schumacher said: "We have made a big step forward on McLaren since the first two races. It is thanks to the new wider front tyres from Goodyear and I am confident we can make another step forward. We have a revised exhaust system that should be used for Imola."

If Jacques Villeneuve is to have any chance of retaining his title he needs a run of significant point collecting. The Canadian is not a fan of San Marino and is known to have been unhappy with his Williams car this year. Williams have a good record at Imola but Villeneuve's team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen said: "I am not sure we will have the improvements by Imola. I hope we have them by Silverstone. With the arrival of new people McLaren have the perfect package."

Damon Hill's problem last year with Arrows was lack of car reliability. The former world champion has found that with new team Jordan but has been left wanting in the horsepower stakes. Hill has finished in all races this season - even in Argentina where he and Johnny Herbert collided - and he won in Imola for Williams in 1995 and 1996. Jordan and Hill are refusing to panic about the lack of points and promising testing times suggest the team are progressing on the right lines.

Rubens Barrichello never looks forward to Imola after fellow Brazilian Ayrton Senna was killed there in 1994. "Going back is always difficult for me because of the memory of Ayrton but I am a professional and I have to get on with my job," said the Stewart driver. "We have discovered that the car is good at changing directions, so I am confident it will run well on a track that is known for its chicanes. At Imola race strategy is crucial. If it rains tactics will play a big part."

Tyrrell's hopes are high for round four of the campaign after both Ricardo Rosset and Toranosuke Takagi finished in Buenos Aires. Takagi has been particularly impressive and managing director Harvey Postlethwaite said: "The signs are that he is going to be very good. He clearly has the speed but as least as importantly is that he uses his head in the cockpit. I think he will come into his own once he has more races under his belt."

Gearbox problems have hit Prost's bid this season but driver Jarno Trulli believes the potential is still greater than last season. He said: "The potential is greater but we have not been able to exploit it. Changes were necessary to enable the team to break through into the top level of Formula One. If at the start of the season we could have developed the Prost-Peugeot AP01 rather than make the gearbox reliable we would be up among the top teams."

The Imola race is set to last for 62 laps, or 189.906 miles (305.660km). Imola staged its first non-championship Formula One race in 1979 and its first grand prix in 1981. Nelson Piquet won the 1981 race and Didier Pironi and Patrick Tambay then won the next two races for Ferrari. The San Marino circuit is named after Enzo Ferrari and son Dino. However, Ferrari have not won at the track since 1983.

1997 result:
1 H-H Frentzen  Ger  Williams
2 M Schumacher  Ger  Ferrari
3 E Irvine      GB   Ferrari
4 G Fisichella  It   Jordan
5 J Alesi       Fr   Benetton
6 M Hakkinen    Fin  McLaren
Fastest lap (record): M Hakkinen Ger Williams  1:25.531

Previous winners:
1997 H-H Frentzen  Ger  Williams
1996 D Hill        GB   Williams
1995 D Hill        GB   Williams
1994 M Schumacher  Ger  Benetton
1993 A Prost       Fr   Williams
1992 N Mansell     GB   Williams
1991 A Senna       Brz  McLaren
1990 R Patrese     Brz  Williams
1989 A Senna       Brz  McLaren
1988 A Senna       Brz  McLaren
1987 N Mansell     GB   Williams

TOURING CARS:- Nigel Mansell has completed a shakedown test for Ford Mondeo Racing ahead of his first full test later this week. The double world champion completed two runs of the handling circuit at The Motor Industry Research Association in a 1997-spec BTCC Ford Mondeo. He said afterwards: "I feel we've achieved quite a lot. I now have an appreciation of the car and the team." His full test will be alongside regular drivers Will Hoy and Craig Baird at Silverstone on Thursday and Friday.

CATALUNYA RALLY:- Frenchman Didier Auriol kept the lead for the second successive day, and now holds an overall time of 3 hours, 10 minutes and one second. Freddy Loix of Belgium lies 41.6 seconds behind. Sainz, currently with a six point advantage in the world standings, is in third place, completing the Toyota Corolla domination. Finland's Tommi Makinen is in fourth place in the three day rally, the fifth event of the World Rally season.

Positions after stage 13:    hrs mins sec
 1 D Auriol    Fr  Toyota     3:10.01.9
 2 F Loix      Bel Toyota     3:10.43.5
 3 C Sainz     Sp  Toyota     3:11.00.9
 4 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi 3:11.01.2
 5 R Burns     GB  Mitsubishi 3:11.06.6
 6 P Bugalski  Fr  Citroen    3:11.09.0
 7 G Panizzi   Fr  Peugeot    3:11.26.0
 8 B Thiry     Bel Ford       3:11.43.1
 9 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot    3:11.54.6
10 C McRae     GB  Subaru     3:12.14.8

F.FORD:- Teenager Jenson Button continued his pre-race form setting the fastest time in preparation for the second round. The Somerset driver, third in the opening round at Thruxton, was closely followed by team-mate Derek Hayes.

Leading test times:min secs
1 J Button        1:25.356
2 D Hayes         1:25.649
3 S Wheldon       1:25.678
4 R van der Elde  1:25.874
5 P-C Morland     1:26.223

F3:- Bristol's Ben Collins set the pace in the testing for the fourth and fifth rounds with fellow Briton Marc Hynes in second place. Championship points leader Enrique Bernoldi was fifth, one place behind his closest challenger Mario Haberfeld.

Leading test times:         min secs
1 B Collins   Speiss-Opel   1:25.356
2 M Hynes     Renault       1:25.649
3 K Kolby     Mugen-Honda   1:25.678
4 M Haberfeld Mugen-Honda   1:25.874
5 E Bernoldi  Renault       1:26.223

F1:- Michael Schumacher believes Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix will be a two-way battle between McLaren and Ferrari. The German, who is hoping to give the Italian team their first win at Imola since 1983, said: "It is an affair between Ferrari and McLaren. I do not think any other team will be able to compete for victory." Schumacher has been linked with McLaren after his Ferrari deal expires at the end of 1999 but he added: "I have not taken any decision yet."

Damon Hill was tipped to give Jordan their first race win but the former world champion admits there is work to be done before that can be achieved. "I would certainly be nervous about claiming we could win a race this year," said Hill. "We should be able to push ourselves and be qualifying regularly in the top six places and taking podium finishes. I am confident that can be achieved because I can see the developments that are already coming through."

TOURING CARS:- Rickard Rydell is out to extend his lead in the championship on Sunday. The 29-year-old Swede triumphed in the first round at Thruxton but he said: "I know it is not going to be easy to finish in front at Silverstone. "By winning round two, Alain Menu proved Renault are still going to be the team to beat this season." Rydell and team-mate Gianni Morbidelli clocked quick times in testing at Silverstone last month and were only eclipsed by Honda's James Thompson.

Renault's Alain Menu and Jason Plato dominated at the Northamptonshire circuit last season. The pair won every race between them and Oxford-based Plato said: "It is a circuit I know well and where the Renault Laguna has a great record. I qualified in the top three for all the races there last year and won the final one too, so the omens are good. Silverstone has plenty of overtaking spots, which is great for fans, and the new rules have added more drama."

John Cleland and Derek Warwick are confident the 1998 Vauxhall Vectras will be among the front-runners during the course of the season. Cleland earned a fourth place at Thruxton and Warwick a fifth. "I think we as a team knew that if we got through Thruxton with a good result ` which we did ` we would be looking at a good season," said Warwick. "We expect to be more competitive this weekend. I am feeling very good about the car."

Nissan duo Anthony Reid and David Leslie both claimed podium places at Silverstone in 1997 and will be aiming for repeat performances. Leslie revealed: "The Primera GT handles really well. "Both Anthony and I qualified in the top five at Thruxton, yet we were giving away three or four miles per hour through the speed traps. Therefore, the chassis must be spot on. We have made some improvements to increase our chances."

Audi Sport UK have prepared a new bodyshell for John Bintcliffe to use in this weekend's races. The Harrogate driver crashed twice in testing before the opening rounds at Thruxton and repairs could not be made in time for Silverstone.

CATALUNYA RALLY:- Didier Auriol claimed his first World Championship win since Corsica in 1995 with an impressive drive in Spain. However, Toyota will not be rewarded with 10 points in the manufacturers championship as Auriol was not registered by the team. Only Carlos Sainz and Freddy Loix have been nominated for points by the team. Loix finished second, while Sainz was seventh after being hit with a puncture problem on the final day. Finn Tommi Makinen was third.

Colin McRae's championship hopes suffered a setback when he was forced to retire on stage 16. The Scot, who won the last round in Portugal, was forced out with a rear left drive-shaft problem. McRae admitted: "It has been one of those rallies where nothing has gone as we have planned. It is obviously a massive disappointment after Portugal." The event was won by Didier Auriol in a Toyota, while Britain's Richard Burns was fourth.

Alister McRae and Kenneth Eriksson were seventh and eight respectively in the F2 category. It was the Hyundai Motor Sport team's first attempt at a world championship tarmac rally and both Hyundai Coupes performed well. "I really enjoyed this event," said McRae. "The car has not had a problem and is going to be a strong F2 world championship contender." Eriksson added: "Apart from a slipped clutch the car had good reliability."

Britain's new star Richard Burns moved into second place in the championship after fighting to finish fourth. The 29-year-old from Oxford showed his remarkable consistency at the top level by again finishing unscathed to rack up ten consecutive championship finishes. He said was "pretty pleased" with his performance and went on to praise the new improved Mitsubishi used in Spain. "The latest car is already better than the old one, but there's still untapped potential to come," he promised.

Final positions after 19 stages:hrs mins sec
 1 D Auriol    Fr  Toyota     4:18.36.9
 2 F Loix      Bel Toyota     4:19.30.3
 3 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi 4:19.46.3
 4 R Burns     GB  Mitsubishi 4:20.10.4
 5 P Bugalski  Fr  Citroen    4:20.28.3
 6 G Panizzi   Fr  Peugeot    4:20.44.0
 7 C Sainz     Sp  Toyota     4:21.05.7
 8 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot    4:21.24.6
 9 U Nittel    Ger Mitsubishi 4:22.45.6
10 R Madeira   Por Toyota     4:25.24.5
C McRae retired on stage 16

Driver standings:             Points
1 C Sainz     Sp    Toyota      22
2 R Burns     GB    Mitsubishi  18
3 J Kankkunen Fin   Ford        16
4 C McRae     GB    Subaru      14
= T Makinen   Fin   Mitsubishi  14
= D Auriol    Fr    Toyota      14

Manufacturer standings:
1 Mitsubishi      32 pts
2 Toyota          31
3 Ford            23
4 Subaru          21

CHAMP CARS:- Mark Blundell will be competing in the 1998 version of the Motorola-backed Reynard Mercedes-Benz in round four of the series this weekend. The team decided to use the 1997 car for the first three CART races of the campaign but Blundell has been testing the new model since January. He said: "We have put points on the board in all three races so far but I am now hungry for podium finishes. It is early days yet and the championship is still wide open."

F1:- Michael Doohan escaped injury when he hit a wall in Jacques Villeneuve's Formula One championship-winning car in a special test in Barcelona. The four-times world 500cc motorcycling champion spun the Williams as Villeneuve watched from the pits.

F.RENAULT:- Brazilian series leader Aluizio Coelho topped the times in testing for Sunday's second round at Silverstone. He headed a Manor Motorsport lock-out of the top three positions.

Leading times:             mins secs
1 A Coelho       Tatuus     1:21.743
2 D Bell         Tatuus     1:22.266
3 T Sriachavanon Tatuus     1:22.440
4 T Mullin       V Diemen   1:22.559
5 V Meira        V Diemen   1:22.995
6 JJ Font        Tatuus     1:23.301
Star Cup
1 R Kerr         Tatuus     1:23.574

RENAULT SPIDERS:- Nick Hart headed the closest ever Spider test session with less than a second covering the top six. Former British Hillclimb champion Andy Priaulx makes his Spider debut in place of Andreas Demetriou after he set the 10th fastest time.

Leading time:         min secs
1 N Hart              1:32.845
2 D Shaw              1:32.861
3 D Eaves             1:33.268
4 J Hunter            1:33.398
5 D Vercoe            1:33.543
6 D Henderson         1:33.819

F1:- Jordan have worked on Ralf Schumacher's starts after the German failed to go past the first lap in Australia and Brazil and spun out in Argentina. The team are still looking for their first points and technical director Gary Anderson said: "It covered more than just the physical start. It included the psychology behind a good start. Ralph has tended to become too flustered on the starting grid. He seems far more relaxed about it all."

PIRELLI INTERNATIONAL RALLY:- Alister McRae believes he can put his title hopes back on track in the Pirelli International Rally, which begins at Carlisle Airport on Saturday. McRae and his Volkswagen co-driver David Senior have been testing in Cumbria's Kielder Forest in their quest for victory on that course. "We covered 80 stage miles in Kielder without missing a beat," said McRae. "We were trying some suspension and steering modifications. I am confident that we are going to go well."

Gwyndaf Evans is spearheading the SEAT charge in the Pirelli International Rally and believes the Ibiza Evo 2 kit car will be suited to the course. "All things being equal, Kielder will suit the Ibiza," said the Welshman. "The forest roads are quite technical. They are narrow, very fast and you have got to keep the car straight and clean at all times. If you make the slightest mistake, the deep ditches on either side of the road will make you pay dearly."

The Vauxhall Astra kit car and driver Jarmo Kytolehto are being tipped as dark horses after the vehicle made its debut in last month's Rally of Wales. Kytolehto and co-driver Arto Kapanen worked their way up to fifth before being halted 45 miles from the finish when a rock holed the radiator. "For a first outing it was very encouraging," said Vauxhall motorsport manager Mike Nicholson. "However, we must remember the whole season is dedicated to development."

Reigning British women's champion Stephanie Simmonite finished eighth overall in the Rally of Wales and is aiming to build on that performance. The 28-year-old Bradford-based Ford Escort driver admitted: "I am going to the Pirelli on a high after Wales. We would like to continue that sort of speed and good result. Finishing eighth has helped me psychologically. I said at the start of the year I wanted top 10 finishes and I have done just that."

F3:- Enrique Bernoldi will be aiming to maintain his impressive form in the two 30-lap races that make up rounds four and five on Sunday. The Brazilian leads the championship after winning the first two rounds and clinching second spot in round three. Bernoldi's team-mate Marc Hynes was on the podium in the last round. Mario Haberfeld is second in the standings after giving Paul Stewart Racing their first win of the season three weeks ago at Silverstone.

Walsall's Martin O'Connell heads the British challenge this weekend. The TOM'S Racing driver has earned two second places and after initially racing with the team in a race-by-race deal could be battling for the title. Other Britons taking part include Ben Collins, who has been quick in testing and qualifying, and Martin Donnelly Racing driver Jamie Spence. Finland's Miku Santavirta will make his first appearance after racing in Japanese Formula Three last year.

VECTRA CHALLENGE:- Round two of the Vauxhall Vectra SRi V6 Challenge takes place at Silverstone on Sunday and Simon Graves will be bidding to extend his lead in the series. Graves won at Thruxton on his debut, with Flavio Figueiredo pushing him hard before taking second place.

F.VAUXHALL JUNIOR:- Silverstone also plays host to round two of the Formula Vauxhall Junior Championship on Sunday. Eighteen-year-old Richard Lyons passed pre-season favourite Antonio Pizzonia to win round one at Thruxton.

McLaren duo Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard topped the opening practice session times in San Marino on Friday. World championship leader Hakkinen was fastest around the Italian track in one minute 27.832 seconds with his Scottish team-mate 0.108-of-a-second behind. Former world champion Michael Schumacher was a shade behind Coulthard in third place in the Ferrari. Damon Hill's enjoyed one of his best practice sessions of the season as he took ninth place in his Jordan.

Friday practice times         min secs
 1 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren  1:27.617
 2 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren  1:27.940
 3 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari  1:28.088
 4 J Villeneuve  Can Williams 1:28.644
 5 R Schumacher  Ger Jordan   1:28.891
 6 G Fisichella  It  Benetton 1:28.963
 7 E Irvine      GB  Ferrari  1:29.028
 8 O Panis       Fr  Peugeot  1:29.175
 9 D Hill        GB  Jordan   1:29.246
10 H-H Frentzen  Ger Williams 1:29.470
11 J Alesi       Fr  Sauber   1:29.516
12 M Salo        Fin Arrows   1:29.828
13 A Wurz        Aus Benetton 1:29.864
14 T Takagi      Jpn Tyrrell  1:30.190
15 J Herbert     GB  Sauber   1:30.223
16 P Diniz       Brz Arrows   1:30.795
17 J Trulli      It  Prost    1:30.804
18 R Barrichello Brz Stewart  1:30.849
19 E Tuero       Arg Minardi  1:31.954
20 S Nakano      Jpn Minardi  1:32.052
21 J Magnussen   Den Stewart  1:32.196
22 R Rosset      Brz Tyrrell  1:32.554

TOURING CARS:- Nissan's David Leslie topped the timesheets at Silverstone on Friday in official testing for this weekend's British Touring Car Championships. Leslie made the best of the tricky wet weather to set a time more than two tenths quicker of his nearest rival. With eight different makes of car in the top 10 the prospects for a competitive pair of races on Sunday could not be stronger. Honda's Dutch signing Peter Kox ran Leslie closest.

Nigel Mansell finished his first full test in a BTCC Ford Mondeo at Silverstone and proclaimed it a very useful introduction. The 1992 Formula One World Champion said: "It's been very fruitful. I've learned an awful lot about the team, the car and the way its performed."

"By doing these days I'll be able to transpose what I've learned when I get into the '98 car. I've been very sensible, and it's been very interesting," added Mansell.

Top nine practice times (Fri):min secs
1 D Leslie      GB  Nissan   1:24.530
2 P Knox        Hol Honda    1:24.809
3 G Morbidelli  It  Volvo    1:24.824
4 W Hoy         GB  Ford     1:24.864
5 D Warwick     GB  Vauxhall 1:24.899
6 J Bintcliffe  GB  Audi     1:24.906
7 T Rustad      Nor Renault  1:25.010
8 R Rydell      Swe Volvo    1:25.048
9 P Radisich    NZ  Peugeot  1:25.461

McLaren's domination continued as David Coulthard claimed pole position for Sunday's race, while team-mate Mika Hakkinen will be second on the grid. Coulthard, who is bidding to win his first grand prix of the season, was the only driver to dip under the one minute, 25 seconds barrier. Michael Schumacher was third quickest and Eddie Irvine delighted the tifosi by putting a second Ferrari on row two. Damon Hill will start from seventh and Johnny Herbert was 11th quickest.

David Coulthard will be aiming for one of his renowned fast starts after taking pole for Sunday's grand prix. After a see-saw qualifying battle with McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen, the Scot said: "I went wide at one of the corners and thought I had lost pole. The start could be quite tight as there is a kink before you get to the first corner. There is the potential for an incident but I am hoping to keep clear of that sort of thing."

David Coulthard has vowed to pick up his first victory of the season after claiming pole position at Imola. He said: "I feel I should have won two races already this season so I want to make sure I take that step onto the winner's podium this time. I handed a win over in Melbourne and the incident with Michael Schumacher cost me in Argentina. Now I really feel it is my turn for a victory which will boost my championship chances."

Damon Hill will start Sunday's grand prix from seventh on the grid after a strong qualifying session for Jordan. "I am so much more encouraged by this result," said Hill, whose best race position so far is eighth. "Both cars look so much better and the difference has been very obvious this weekend. We have consistently been able to run close to the front. I would have liked to have held on to the fourth place I had but the competition is very tight."

Saturday qualifying times:    min secs
 1 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren  1:25.973
 2 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren  1:26.075
 3 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari  1:26.437
 4 E Irvine      GB  Ferrari  1:27.169
 5 A Wurz        Aut Benetton 1:27.273
 6 J Villeneuve  Can Williams 1:27.390
 7 D Hill        GB  Jordan   1:27.592
 8 H-H Frentzen  Ger Williams 1:27.645
 9 R Schumacher  Ger Jordan   1:27.866
10 G Fisichella  It  Benetton 1:27.937
11 J Herbert     GB  Sauber   1:28.111
12 J Alesi       Fr  Sauber   1:28.191
13 O Panis       Fr  Prost    1:28.270
14 M Salo        Fin Arrows   1:28.798
15 T Takagi      Jpn Tyrrell  1:29.073
16 J Trulli      It  Prost    1:29.584
17 R Barrichello Brz Stewart  1:29.641
18 P Diniz       Brz Arrows   1:29.932
19 E Tuero       Arg Minardi  1:30.649
20 J Magnussen   Den Stewart  1:31.017
21 S Nakano      Jpn Minardi  1:31.255
22 R Rosset      Brz Tyrrell  1:31.482

TOURING CARS:- British young guns James Thompson and Jason Plato dominated qualifying for Sunday's two rounds of the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone. Thompson will start the first sprint race from pole position after setting the fastest time in the thrilling One Shot Showdown qualifying session. Plato qualified first for the longer feature race, which incorporates mandatory pit stops. David Leslie will start from second place in both races.

Round three qualifying times (Sat):min secs
 1 J Thompson    GB  Honda    1:23.859
 2 D Leslie      GB  Nissan   1:23.943
 3 J Plato       GB  Renault  1:24.373
 4 G Morbidelli  It  Volvo    1:24.599
 5 D Warwick     GB  Vauxhall 1:24.600
 6 R Rydell      Swe Volvo    1:24.617
 7 P Kox         NL  Honda    1:24.736
 8 Y Muller      Fr  Audi A4  1:25.029
 9 W Hoy         GB  Ford     1:25.134
10 J Cleland     GB  Vauxhall 1:25.240

Round four qualifying times (Sat):min secs
 1 J Plato       GB  Renault  1:24.948
 2 D Leslie      GB  Nissan   1:25.157
 3 A Menu        Swi Renault  1:25.699
 4 J Thompson    GB  Honda    1:25.842
 5 Y Muller      Fr  Audi A4  1:26.129
 6 D Warwick     GB  Vauxhall 1:26.228
 7 W Hoy         GB  Ford     1:26.298
 8 J Cleland     GB  Vauxhall 1:26.365
 9 P Kox         NL  Honda    1:26.681
10 T Harvey      GB  Peugeot  1:26.753

PIRELLI INTERNATIONAL RALLY:- Martin Rowe sealed a dramatic win in the opening leg of the Pirelli International Rally to maintain his 100% record in Mobil events. Rowe capitalised on a mistake by his Renault teammate Tapio Laukkanen to extend his lead in the series to 11 points having secured the maximum 64. Laukkanen was leading when he clipped a bridge and sustained a puncture. "I just drove at a steady pace and took no chances. We didn't go particularly fast," admitted Rowe.

Gwyndaf Evans has been struggling with a misfire throughout the day but has held onto second place in the SEAT. The engine mapping system has been changed, so he will be challenging for the lead on leg 2. Third placed Jarmo Kytolehto reports a trouble-free day with the new Vauxhall Astra although he's found it hard being first car on the road. Barbara Armstrong continued to hold off the Simmonite Sisters and said: "No problem with the car."

There was a very close battle for the Production Cup with Jeremy Easson in the Mitsubishi taking it by one second from David Mann's Proton. Both drivers have reported driving as hard as they can, and the cars are running well with no problems. This year has been a better event for Mann than last year when his car was stolen just before the start. In the Ferodo Super 1600 category Christer Steen in a Skoda has held onto the lead throughout the day.

LEADERBOARD after 5 of 9 stages
(interim)                        min sec
 1 Rowe/Ringer        Renault    0:59:30
 2 Evans/Davies       SEAT       0:59:34
 3 Kytolehto/Kapanen  Vauxhall   0:59:35
 4 Laukkanen/Jarvi    Renault    0:59:36
 5 Easson/Rabbett     Mitsubishi 0:59:47
 6 Mann/Cook          Proton     0:59:48
 7 Cox/Griffiths      Mitsubishi 0:59:59
 8 Tuohino/Aho        Mitsubishi 1:00:01
 9 Ipatti/Kajula      Mitsubishi 1:00:21
10 Steen/Westman      Skoda      1:00:27

Provisional Championship points                                                 DRIVERS              MANUFACTURERS
1 Rowe        64     1 Renault    90.5
2 Evans       53     2 SEAT       88
3 Wearden     44     3 Ford       65
4 Armstrong   32     4 Vauxhall   63
5 Simmonite   30     5 Peugeot    62
                     6 Volkswagen 48.5
                     7 Proton     32
Both days of the Pirelli Rally are scoring opportunities for the Mobil 1 RAC British Rally Championship.

F3 (Brands Hatch):- Mario Haberfeld is targeting his second victory after earning pole position for both round four and five on Sunday. The Brazilian gave Paul Stewart Racing their first win of the season at Silverstone three weeks ago. He clocked a time of 41.395 seconds to claim pole for rond four, while championship leader Enrique Bernoldi was second quickest. Haberfeld bettered that time by clocking 40.711 for round five and he looks a good bet for at least one win.

Round four qualifying times (Sat):secs
 1 M Haberfeld   Brz Honda      41.395
 2 E Bernoldi    Brz Renault    41.576
 3 B Collins     GB  Opel       41.612
 4 M O'Connell   GB  Toyota     41.855
 5 K Kolby       Den Honda      41.917
 6 W Hughes      GB  Renault    42.130
 7 M Bentwood    GB  Honda      42.197
 8 A Yoong       Mal Renault    42.248
 9 L Burti       Brz Honda      42.271
10 J Spence      GB  Renault    42.275

Round five qualifying times (Sat):secs
 1 M Haberfeld   Brz Honda      40.711
 2 M Hynes       GB  Renault    40.749
 3 W Hughes      GB  Renault    40.765
 4 L Burti       Brz Honda      40.786
 5 E Bernoldi    Brz Renault    40.834
 6 J Spence      GB  Renault    40.863
 7 M O'Connell   GB  Toyota     40.867
 8 K Kolby       Den Honda      40.873
 9 R Mauricio    It  Honda      40.935
10 B Collins     GB  Opel       40.945

F.RENAULT (Silverstone):- Aluizio Coelho claimed pole position for round two on Sunday. The points leader set the fastest qualifying time on a wet track, with team-mate Doug Bell second quickest.

Leading qualifying times (Sat):
1 A Coelho    Brz Tatuus     1:30.635
2 D Bell      GB  Tatuus     1:31.923
3 JJ Font     Yug Tatuus     1:32.060
4 P Edwards   US  Tatuus     1:32.894
5 V Meira     Brz V Diemen   1:32.913
6 T Mullen    GB  V Diemen   1:33.785
Star Cup
8 R Kerr      GB  Tatuus     1:34.195

VECTRA CHALLENGE (Silverstone):- Mark Blair was delighted after earning the first pole position of his career. "We knew after testing the car was good and Silverstone is probably my favourite circuit," he said. "It seems to suit my driving style."

Leading qualifying times (Sat):min secs
1 M Blair      Vaux Vectra   1:34.986
2 S Graves     Vaux Vectra   1:35.266
3 F Figueiredo Vaux Vectra   1:35.329
4 P Sowerby    Vaux Vectra   1:35.950
5 G Coombes    Vaux Vectra   1:36.398
6 D Edmonds    Vaux Vectra   1:36.454

FORMULA FORD (Silverstone):- Somerset driver Jenson Button will start only his second ever race from pole position after clocking the fastest time for round two. He said: "The team got me hyped up and I set a good time on my second lap."

Leading qualifying times (Sat):min secs
1 J Button     Mygale        1:25.612
2 D Hayes      Mygale        1:25.736
3 C Murray     Van Diemen    1:25.806
4 D Wheldon    Van Diemen    1:25.971
5 PC Morland   Mygale        1:26.112
6 T Sisley     Van Diemen    1:26.366

RENAULT SPIDER CUP (Silverstone):- David Shaw claimed his second pole position in a row for round two at Silverstone on Sunday.

Leading qualifying times (Sat):min secs
1 D Shaw     Ren Spider    1:32.562
2 J Hunter   Ren Spider    1:32.660
3 N Hart     Ren Spider    1:32.660
4 D Vercoe   Ren Spider    1:32.921
5 D Eaves    Ren Spider    1:33.121
6 T Masini   Ren Spider    1:33.47

FORD FIESTA'S (Silverstone):- Simon Clarke could hardly believe his own eyes as he qualified on pole position for round two on Sunday. He said: "I kept coming past the pits thinking the pit board will be showing second. I'm over the moon."

Leading qualifying times (Sat):min secs
1 S Clarke   Ford Fiesta   1:47.291
2 C St'combe Ford Fiesta   1:47.561
3 A Morrison Ford Fiesta   1:47.580
4 R Claydon  Ford Fiesta   1:47.586
5 D Gibson   Ford Fiesta   1:47.592
6 N Gordon   Ford Fiesta   1:47.746

Leading qualifying times (Sat):min secs
1 R Lyons     GB  Vaux Jun   1:37.789
2 R Bell      GB  Vaux Jun   1:37.885
3 G Pyper     GB  Vaux Jun   1:38.212
4 T Scheckter SA  Vaux Jun   1:38.224
5 A Pizzonia  Brz Vaux Jun   1:38.802
6 J Hanson    GB  Vaux Jun   1:39.156

MGF CUP (Brands Hatch)
Round six qualifying times (Sat):
1 J Rhodes           52.251
2 M Kelly            52.356
3 N Carr             52.365
4 S Warburton        52.388
5 A Lyall            52.435
6 B Sollis           52.450

F3000 (Imola)
Round two result:           mins secs
1 J Watt       Den Bla Avis  1:16.38
2 K Mollekens  Arden         1:16.39
3 G Rodriguez  Astromega     1:16.39
4 N Heidfeld   West Comp     1:16.41
5 A Couto      Powerteam     1:16.47
6 B de R'bourg Super Nova    1:16.48

CHAMP CARS (Nazareth):- Britain's Mark Blundell had a miserable time in practice ahead of Sunday's race and could only manage the 23rd fastest time in Pennsylvania. "We had trouble sorting out the set-up for this oval, particularly the bumpy sections," he revealed. "We had a rear end problem which reduced my track time and has left us with a little extra ground to make up." Helio Castro-Neves was fastest, with Scotland's Dario Franchitti eighth quickest in his Reynard Honda.

Friday practice times:
lap time                       seconds
 1 H Castro-N   Brz Merc-Benz  18:888
 2 G Moore      Can Merc-Benz  18:962
 3 C Fittipaldi Brz Ford       19:008
 4 M Gugelmin   Brz Merc-Benz  19:077
 5 M Andretti   US  Ford       19:080
 6 A Fernandez  Mex Ford       19:081
 7 P Tracy      US  Honda      19:115
 8 D Franchitti GB  Honda      19:137
 9 P Carpentier Can Merc-Benz  19:167
10 T Kanaan     Brz Honda      19:238
23 M Blundell   GB  Merc       19:671

David Coulthard earned his first win of the season to move to within three points of championship leader and McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen. Hakkinen pulled out with gearbox problems and Coulthard led from start to finish to get his title ambitions back on track. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine could not give the tifosi a win but were second and third respectively. Damon Hill, who had to make a pitstop on lap one, retired late in the race.

Championship leader Mike Hakkinen's race ended on lap 17 and in his 100th grand prix. The Finn, who was lying in second behind team-mate David Coulthard, was forced out with gearbox problems. Meanwhile, Alex Wurz and Damon Hill collided at the start and both had to make pitstops. Austrian Wurz eventually withdrew from the race with gearbox problems on lap 13 but Hill carried on before retiring with five laps left.

Michael Schumacher had looked to be closing in on race winner David Coulthard on the last two laps but the Scot was always confident of victory. "I was not worried about Michael," he said. "I had a lead of over 20 seconds after the pitstop and I just made sure I was not hard on the brakes or tyres. I think our car was running quicker. I was never going to be as quick on old tyres but I think I had enough in hand. He might have been able to catch me but probably could not have passed me."

Ferrari star Michael Schumacher admitted that he always felt it was unlikely that he would catch eventual winner David Coulthard. "It was very obvious to me he was just cruising," said the German, who had the tifosi in raptures with second place, while team-mate Eddie Irvine was third. "I was always pushing," added Schumacher. "I never give up until the chequered flag comes down. However, I did not really think I had a chance of winning."

McLaren's Mika Hakkinen was philosophical after he had his first retirement of the season. "I am obviously very disappointed but I have had a lot of things happen to me in my career. There is nothing I can do about it now. These things happen in the sport," he said. Hakkinen had threatened to run away with the championship and led the drivers' race by 12 points before the Imola race.

Ulsterman Eddie Irvine turned in another superb performance to claim the final place on the podium. However, he had a poor start and was overtaken by world champion Jacques Villenueve, although he was able to turn the tables on the Canadian later. "I made a mistake at the first chicane but I was back in front after refuelling later on and managed to maintain the gap," said Irvine. Villeneuve was fourth, with Williams team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen fifth.

Damon Hill had his first retirement of the season but believes his Jordan had its best performance of the season. "It has been very positive," said the 1996 world champion. "We have been qualifying better and racing better. "I do not think you can compare any of our previous performances with this," he added after going out with an air pressure problem late on. He had battled back to seventh position after a first-lap pitstop and said: "We needed to show we are competitive."

Johnny Herbert's run of bad luck continued as he retired on lap 12. The Briton failed to finish the last round in Buenos Aires after a collision with Damon Hill. This time he was hit by suspension and mechanical problems. He said: "Alexander Wurz and Damon Hill must have had something going on at the start and I got stuck behind that. Then I found myself trying to get past Jarno Trulli."

Stewart's Rubens Barrichello failed to complete the first lap after a collision with team-mate Jan Magnussen. The Dane was able to carry on for a few laps until he too was forced out with a gear problem. "I feel sorry for Jan because he had a good start," said Barrichello. "He obviously hit me very hard because the rear wing and floor were damaged." Magnussen revealed: "I was looking for a clear run. I have apologised to Rubens but really had nowhere to go."

Tyrrell looked set for two top 10 finishes until engine air compressor failures forced out Toranosuke Takagi Ricardo Rosset. Takagi had been as high as 10th and Rosset 12th. Japanese star Takagi said: "It is always very disappointing not to finish a race but even more so when there is no chance of a good result." Rosset added: "I passed four or five cars on the first lap then had to go on the grass to avoid Barrichello."

1 M Hakkinen    Fin  McLaren   26 pts
2 D Coulthard   GB   McLaren   23
3 M Schumacher  Ger  Ferrari   20
4 E Irvine      GB   Ferrari   11
5 H-H Frentzen  Ger  Williams   8
6 A Wurz        Aut  Benetton   6
7 J Villeneuve  Can  Williams   5
8 J Alesi       Fr   Sauber     3
9 J Herbert     GB   Sauber     1
= G Fisichella  It   Benetton   1

1 McLaren-Mercedes      49 pts
2 Ferrari               31
3 Williams-Mecachrome   13
= Benetton               7
5 Sauber-Petronas        4

TOURING CARS (Silverstone):- David Leslie gave Nissan their first BTCC win for five years in round three, while 1991 champion Will Hoy earned his first victory since 1995 in round four. Champion Alain Menu, meanwhile, crashed out of both events and his Renault team-mate Jason Plato leads the drivers' title race. After his triumph Leslie admitted: "It may have looked easy but it was not. We had to guess most of the car settings. It all worked out well and I hope it is my first of many wins for Nissan."

Round three result (Sun):      min secs
 1 D Leslie      GB  Nissan   25:34.057
 2 J Thompson    GB  Honda       @6.600
 3 J Plato       GB  Renault     @7.090
 4 D Warwick     GB  Vauxhall   @11.118
 5 R Rydell      Swe Volvo      @13.045
 6 J Cleland     GB  Vauxhall   @14.412
 7 A Reid        GB  Nissan     @17.729
 8 G Morbidelli  It  Volvo      @18.167
 9 W Hoy         GB  Ford       @22.673
10 Y Muller      Fr  Audi A4    @24.080

Round four result (Sun):       min secs
 1 W Hoy         GB  Ford     46:49.868
 2 J Plato       GB  Renault  46:56.735
 3 A Reid        GB  Nissan   47:01.680
 4 P Radisich    NZ  Peugeot  47:09.811
 5 G Morbidelli  It  Volvo    47:18.155
 6 D Warwick     GB  Vauxhall 47:59.753
 7 J Cleland     GB  Vauxhall 48:11.144
 8 Y Muller      Fr  Audi A4  48:20.213
 9 J Thompson    GB  Honda    48:23.897
10 C Baird       NZ  Ford     46:52.690 (one lap)

DRIVER STANDINGS                   Pts
1 J Plato    GB  Renault Laguna    44
2 R Rydell   Swe Volvo S40         36
3 J Thompson GB  Honda Accord      36
4 A Menu     Swi Renault Laguna    22
5 J Cleland  GB  Vauxhall          22
6 D Warwick  GB  Vauxhall          20

1 Renault               49 pts
2 Volvo                 39
3 Nissan                35
4 Honda                 35
5 Vauxhall              29

LEADERBOARD after 9 stages
(interim)                      hr min sec
 1 Evans/Davies       SEAT       2:01:08
 2 Laukkanen/Jarvi    Renault    2:01:35
 3 Rowe/Ringer        Renault    2:01:49
 4 McRae/Senior       Volkswagen 2:02:22
 5 Ipatti/Kajula      Mitsubishi 2:03:10
 6 Cox/Griffiths      Mitsubishi 2:03:16
 7 Tuohino/Aho        Mitsubishi 2:04:46
 8 Wearden/Agnew      Honda      2:05:18
 9 Eriksson/Henriks'n Ford       2:05:26
10 Steen/Westman      Skoda      2:06:04
Gwyndaf Evans has won the Pirelli Rally for SEAT having taken the lead from Martin Rowe's Renault on stage six. This gives him maximum Mobil 1 Rally Championship points on Leg 2 and moves him up the Championship to second, one point off Martin Rowe. Gwyndaf was very pleased with the way the event went: "I am absolutely delighted for the whole team. They've worked hard all week and it's a just reward for everyone".

Alister McRae in the Volkswagen fought a frustrating rally to finish fourth overall in the Pirelli Rally. He suffered brake problems on both Legs of the event, at times completing stages with no brakes at all. "On the stages where we had no problems we were clearly quickest and without those difficulties, we could have been on the leaderboard on both days. "Now I look forward to the next round, my home event. I won in Scotland last year and am determined to do so again."

Tapio Laukkanen celebrated his first podium finish for Renault, finishing 25 seconds behind Gwyndaf Evans. Renault teammate Martin Rowe maintains his lead in the driver's Championship after finishing fourth overall. "I'm happy to have scored points again. That was our goal before the event," said Martin. Co-driver Derek Ringer added: "Our strategy was to make sure that we finished, if you want to win the title you must play a tactical game."

1 Rowe        86
2 Evans       85
3 Wearden     64
4 Laukkanen   47
5 McRae       46
6 Armstrong   45
= Simmonite   45

1 SEAT       120
2 Renault    115.5
3 Ford       87
4 Peugeot    82
5 Vauxhall   81
6 Volkswagen 76.5
7 Proton     32

F3 (Brands Hatch):-
Round four result (Sun):     mins secs
 1 E Bernoldi    Brz Renault 15:51.320
 2 M O'Connell   GB  Toyota  15:51.821
 3 M Haberfeld   Brz Honda   15:54.302
 4 B Collins     GB  Opel    15:56.221
 5 W Hughes      GB  Renault 15:56.652
 6 K Kolby       Den Honda   15:57.753
 7 M Hynes       GB  Renault 15:58.341
 8 A Yoong       Mal Renault 15:59.531
 9 J Spence      GB  Renault 16:01.698
10 L Burti       Brz Honda   16:04.232

Round five result (Sun):     mins secs
 1 L Burti       Brz Honda   20:52.548
 2 W Hughes      GB  Renault 20:53.328
 3 M O'Connell   GB  Toyota  20:53.585
 4 J Spence      GB  Renault 20:54.052
 5 R Mauricio        Honda   20:55.320
 6 B Collins     GB  Opel    20:55.703
 7 D Cook        GB  Opel    21:01.664
 8 A Yoong       Mal Renault 21:02.465
 9 P Cook        GB  Opel    21:03.115
10 A Pavicevic   Aus Honda   21:09.047

 1 E Bernoldi   Brz Renault     77
 2 M O'Connell  GB  Toyota      57
 3 M Haberfeld  Brz Honda       53
 4 W Hughes     GB  Renault     45
 5 L Burti      Brz Honda       42
 6 M Hynes      GB  Renault     25
 7 J Spence     GB  Renault     24
 8 R Mauricio   Brz Honda       20
 9 B Collins    GB  Opel        17
10 A Yoong      Mal Renault     15

F.VAUXHALL JNR (Brands Hatch):-
                            mins secs
1 T Scheckter SA  Vaux Jun  19:26.659
2 A Pizzonia  Brz Vaux Jun  19:30.758
3 R Lyons     GB  Vaux Jun  19:31.166
4 J Fourie    SA  Vaux Jun  19:44.054
5 G Pyper     GB  Vaux Jun  19:44.999
6 J Hanson    GB  Vaux Jun  19:48.925

MGF CUP (Brands Hatch):- 
Race result (Sun):
1 M Kelly    MG F         17:46.147
2 J Rhodes   MG F         17:52.222
3 A Lyall    MG F         17:59.442
4 R Mears    MG F         18:02.356
5 M Hazell   MG F         18:07.995
6 M Jones    MG F         18:08.257

TOUR OF CORNWALL:- John Price claimed his third wins out of three in the Safety Devices National Championship by triumphing in the Tour of Cornwall. Peter Lloyd was second overall in the two-day Newquay event.

Leading results (Sun):
1 J Price       Metro 6R4     1:59.22
2 P Lloyd       Metro 6R4     1:59.58
3 C Griffiths   Subari Imp    2:00.05
4 S Hendy       Escort Cos    2:00.16
5 S Allen       Metro 6R4     2:02.16
6 M Dodd        Escort RS2000 2:03.19

CHAMP CARS (Nazareth):-
Grid for race: lap time        seconds
 1 P Carpentier Can Merc-Benz  18:419
 2 G Moore      Can Merc-Benz  18:628
 3 M Andretti   US  Ford       18:636
 4 G de Ferran  Brz Honda      18:640
 5 J Vasser     US  Honda      18:652
 6 C Fittipaldi Brz Ford       18:658
 7 B Herta      US  Ford       18:725
 8 A Zanardi    US  Honda      18:729
 9 B Rahal      US  Ford       18:819
10 P Tracy      US  Honda      18:822
17 D Franchitti GB  Honda      19:004
21 M Blundell   GB  Mercedes   19:122

F1:- David Coulthard admits Ferrari could still be a threat to McLaren's title ambitions because of the consistency of Michael Schumacher. The Scot won the San Marino Grand Prix but Ferrari's Schumacher and Eddie Irvine were second and third. "I know I am capable of beating Michael when I am driving to my best but from my past form I have shown I am less consistent than him," said Coulthard. "The goal in my career is to make myself as consistent as him."

RALLYING:- Martin Rowe and Tapio Laukkanen are preparing for the next stage of the Mobil 1 British Rally Championship by flying to Corsica. The Renault pair, who were in the top three overall in the Pirelli International Rally at the weekend, have flown out to practice on asphalt. Laukkanen, in particular, needs to practice on the harder surface with the Ulster and Manx events on the schedule. He has impressed on gravel but said: "I want to get in 200 miles on tarmac."

CHAMP CARS (Nazareth):- Jimmy Vasser won the delayed Bosch Grand Prix in Pennsylvania just 1.4 seconds ahead of teammate Alex Zanardi. After Sunday's scheduled start was delayed by rain, a cold track on a chilly Monday morning caused several contenders to spin out. Using just two pit stops in a race slowed by caution six times, Vasser's Reynard Honda averaged 108.839mph. Briton Mark Blundell escaped without injury following contact with the wall in turn three.

Race result:                   Laps
 1 J Vasser     US  Honda       225
 2 A Zanardi    US  Honda       225
 3 G Moore      Can Merc-Benz   225
 4 G de Ferran  Brz Honda       225
 5 P Tracy      US  Honda       225
 6 B Rahal      US  Ford        225
 7 R Gordon     US  Toyota      225
 8 B Herta      US  Ford        224
 9 T Kanaan     US  Honda       224
10 R Hearn      US  Ford        224
20 M Blundell   GB  Mercedes    118
21 D Franchitti GB  Honda       145

DRIVER STANDINGS               Points
 1 G Moore      Can Merc-Benz    51
 2 A Zanardi    US  Honda        50
 3 A Fernandez  Mex Ford         41
 4 G de Ferran  Brz Honda        33
 5 J Vasser     US  Honda        31

29.04.98 - TOURING CARS
The championship moves to Donington for rounds five and six this weekend and it promises to be a competitive affair. Four different drivers have triumphed in the opening races of the season, with last year's runaway champion Alain Menu not having it all his own way. Volvo's Rickard Rydell, Renault's Menu, Nissan's David Leslie and Ford's Will Hoy have all won races. However, it is Menu's Renault team-mate Jason Plato who heads the drivers' race after some consistent performances.

Renault star Jason Plato will be aiming to extend his lead in the championship over the Bank Holiday weekend. Qualifying is on Sunday, with the two races on Monday and Plato is a big fan of the Derbyshire circuit. "It is great to be leading the championship as we arrive at Donington ` a circuit I really like," he said. "So far I have been playing the percentage game, scoring good points in all four opening races, but it would be good to start winning soon."

Surprise Silverstone winner Will Hoy will be one of the few people praying for rain on Monday. He revealed: "The Mondeo needs more fine tuning to maximise its potential in dry conditions. However, no-one should count us out if we get some typical British Bank Holiday weather at Donington. Our win at Silverstone was no fluke. We got the tactics right and my pit crew were fantastic. It is clear no driver is going to dominate this year."

Ex-Formula One star Nigel Mansell is expceted at the circuit on Monday to cheer on the Ford squad. Mansell is expected to make his debut for the team in June. Other front-runners could be James Thompson, who has already been on the podium three times this season, and John Cleland and Gianni Morbidelli. Meanwhile, the Autosport Cup battle for the independents should feature strong challenges from Robb Gravett, Matt Neal and Mark Lemmer.

Nissan's Anthony Reid used to be chief instructor at Donington's racing school so should have some inside information. "On a flying lap the Primera GT rushes past the pits at 125mph toward the first bend," he said. "If you get your braking all wrong you could end up having an early pint in the Lodge pub on the left. People also get into trouble at the Old Hairpin, which is nothing like a hairpin. The knack is to get on to the left side to find the correct line."