Tuesday 2nd MAY 2000



An incredible drive which included passing 10 cars in two laps secured Matt Turner his equal best result of the season in round three of the Autobytel Lotus Elise Championship at Thruxton in Hampshire on Monday.

The American driver who lives in Rugby, had it all to do following a disastrous qualifying session, which saw his Corus and Regal Hotels entered car only secure 16th on the grid. "I went off in testing here last week," said Turner after the session, "And though the car was rebuilt for qualifying it was unbelievably unbalanced. I spent the session trying to dial in some pace and never got a clean lap in."

However he was looking forward to the race, convinced the Lotus engineers had solved the car's problems. "They've fixed the ride height and a problem with the exhaust. I'll have to come through the field, but I need to finish and get some points, so I can't afford to get involved with anyone."

Come the race on Monday Turner's aim was greatly assisted by a quite amazing opening couple of laps, in which he made up 10 places to lie sixth. "Holes opened up on left and right," he said. "I did two perfectly clean laps - it was like taking candy from a baby."

The demise of another rival promoted Turner to fifth, until he was passed by former Grand Prix driver Ian Ashley. "Ian was definitely faster than me, so I tried to follow him around, and I reckon I learnt to save around two tenths of a second per lap."

Ashley then spun at the chicane, just missing Turner, who assumed a lonely fifth place. But towards the end of the race Ashley hauled back the deficit, followed by Matt Pinny, and going onto the last lap the three were nose-to-tail. Ashley tried to muscle past into the final corner, the chicane, but ran wide and Matt just held on to fifth at the flag. "I was trying to get second gear, and the back stepped out, which was probably fortunate because it was on the bit of road Ian wanted," grinned Turner.

Turner earned points for fourth place, as second in the race was taken by guesting celebrity Tiff Needell of the BBC's "Top Gear."

"I'm really pleased to earn some points, because they're so valuable," said Turner, who hopes to go to the Le Mans 24-hours with his team next year. "The Lotus championship goes to Spa in Belgium next and I'm really looking forward to it. "