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Aiello is raining touring car champ; MOTORSPORT: STOCK CAR RACING AND BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP.

LAURENT Aiello was crowned 1999 Auto Trader British Touring Car champion at a rain-soaked Silverstone yesterday.

The Frenchman needed just one point to hold off the challenge of Nissan team-mate David Leslie and he did enough in a shortened round 25 to claim the crown in his first season of BTCC action.

The 30-year-old former French and German touring car champion, who also won Le Mans in 1998, was always one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

With 10 race victories, 10 pole positions and 15 visits to the podium, there can be no doubt that Aiello has earned the title.

''I can't explain exactly what this means to me,'' said an emotional Aiello.

''I have really enjoyed this year and I would love to be back in the BTCC next year to defend the title.''

Aiello's march to the title had appeared to be running smoothly as he held pole position for the sprint race, but it started to go wrong.

The rain arrived 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the race, throwing preparations into a state of panic in the pit lane.

A miscalculation during the warm-up laps meant Aiello had to start from back of the grid alongside Leslie.

The race, a lottery as conditions deteriorated, was stopped after eight of the scheduled 15 laps.

Aiello was ninth and Leslie 11th, giving the Frenchman the title by 30 points with just 16 still available.

Out-going champion Rickard Rydell won the race.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 20, 1999
Words:246
Previous Article:European duo struggling for form; GOLF.
Next Article:Harrison lands world title in thrilling finale; MOTORSPORT: STOCK CAR RACING AND BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP.


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