Menu grabs BTCC title in thriller finale

The honour of winning the last Super Touring British Touring Car Championship drivers' title went appropriately to the most successful driver of the Super Touring era, Alain Menu at Siverstone's night race finale

Menu grabs BTCC title in thriller finale

Third place was enough to secure the drivers' championship for Menu, by just a point from his Ford team mate Anthony Reid. The Scot had been punted out of a potential title winning position with just two and a half laps to go.

The third member of Ford's dream team, Rickard Rydell, lost his outside shot at the title when he was ushered off the grid with a severe coolant leak, following an engine change.

Back at the sharp end, Tom Kristensen completed a superb winning double by dominating the feature race. In so doing, the Dane became the last driver to win an international Super Touring race in the UK.

"It's been a very frustrating season, but finishing on such a high note was great," said Kristensen after a dominant performance. The Dane capitalised on his pole position and the absence of second qualifier Rydell to establish an immediate lead. James Thompson also made an excellent getaway in the other West Surrey Racing-run Honda and moved past third qualifier Menu on the run up to Copse.

Menu, though, was not content with third place. "I knew third might be enough to take the title," said the Swiss, "but Anthony wasn't far behind so I also knew I might need second place, so decided I needed to pass Thompson." He did just that on lap two with a decisive and robust move under braking at Priory.

Thereafter Menu seemed able to match Kristensen's pace but the Honda man's advantage remained strong throughout. Thompson immediately started to drop away. "He re-arranged my steering on the way past," said Thompson. "That would have been great on a circuit that's all left-handers, but as it was I was struggling to outpace class B cars through Copse."

Nevertheless Thompson held on to third place for much of the race, only losing it to the charging Jason Plato (up from 10th on the grid) with four laps to go. By then Thompson was in serious trouble with a puncture - caused he thought by the damage inflicted in Menu's pass - that brought him into the pits and condemned him to eighth place. "That just about sums up my year," said Thompson later.

However his was not the only drama unfolding. Reid had just passed the crippled Honda to move into fourth place and had been slowed in the process. The closely following Vincent Radermecker reckoned he saw a chance and was lining up to make a move into Becketts, when he ran flat into the back of the Mondeo and punted it off into the gravel trap and retirement. "I was taken out by someone who wasn't even a player in the championship. There's not really much more you can say," commented the bitterly disappointed Scot.

"Normally you brake twice for Becketts, and he seemed to just cover the line and stay on the brakes," explained Radermecker, "it just surprised me. I feel very sorry for him." The Belgian picked up a £1000 fine and a reprimand for his move.

Reid initially thought the clash had certainly cost him the title, reckoning that fourth place for him and second for Menu would have put him on top. That in fact would have put them level, with Menu winning on the tie-break because he has won more races. As it happened Menu finished third and in that case fourth would have cracked it for Reid. Menu though, knowing Reid was out, surrendered second place to Plato without a fight on the last lap. "If I'd had to keep him behind I could have, no problem," said the Swiss. That looked a fair statement, but Reid was left in the frustrating position of not knowing what might have been. Whatever, it was a fantastically close finish to a championship that has been exceptionally hard-fought all year.

The class B title had been settled earlier and this time it was Dan Eaves' turn to win. He'd been shadowed for most of the race by Alan Morrison, until the new champion retired with a gear selection problem. James Kaye inherited second p[lace and edged closer and closer to Eaves over the closing laps, his final attack spoiled when the pair were being lapped. Bryce Wilson finished an excellent third in the RJN Motorsport Nissan, setting some very competitive lap times on the way.

Results from Round 24

Tom Kristensen Honda Accord 43:29.942
Jason Plato Vauxhall Vectra 43:34.894
Alain Menu Ford Mondeo Zetec 43:36.362
Vincent Radermecker Vauxhall Vectra 43:45.961
Yvan Muller Vauxhall Vectra 43:53.590
Gabriele Tarquini Honda Accord 43:58.779
Matt Neal Nissan Primera GT 44:10.698
James Thompson Honda Accord 44:50.410
Dan Eaves Peugeot 306 GTi 44:18.334
James Kaye Honda Accord 44:20.568
Bryce Wilson Nissan Primera 44:41.487
Marc Nordon Nissan Primera 44:41.933
Geoff Kimber-Smith Toyota Carina E GTi 44:24.783

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