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

Alain Menu Q&A

Previous article

Alain Menu Q&A

Next article

Peugeot confirms BTCC return

Peugeot confirms BTCC return
Load comments
The outright tin-top wins achieved by a forgotten tin-top great Plus

The outright tin-top wins achieved by a forgotten tin-top great

Already established as a formidable force in the British Saloon Car Championship, the Triumph Dolomite became a legend in 1977 when Tony Dron's Broadspeed machine frequently embarrassed the mighty Capris

May 18, 2021
Five key plotlines to follow in the 2021 BTCC Plus

Five key plotlines to follow in the 2021 BTCC

It’s been a busy silly season in the BTCC since the chequered flag fell to end the 2020 campaign last November. While last year’s top two have stayed put, there’s plenty of talking points elsewhere, which should result in another fascinating year of tin-top action

May 7, 2021
The giantkilling 'dad and lad' operation taking on the BTCC's best Plus

The giantkilling 'dad and lad' operation taking on the BTCC's best

The Lancashire squad of Ciceley Motorsport has been a BTCC race winner for several years with Adam Morgan and Mercedes. But the switch to WSR-built BMWs and addition of Tom Chilton as a true barometer for Morgan should see the team step up into title contention

May 6, 2021
How a returning champion is feeling at home again in the BTCC Plus

How a returning champion is feeling at home again in the BTCC

After topping the times at the end of British Touring Car Championship pre-season testing, it feels like Gordon Shedden has never been away. But after plenty of changes behind the scenes, the three-time champion is bedding himself in to pick up where he left off

May 5, 2021
Why a BTCC legend remains defiant at '97 not out' Plus

Why a BTCC legend remains defiant at '97 not out'

After a year of enforced absence from the British Touring Car Championship grid, Jason Plato is back and hungrier than ever. Despite stellar opposition and some familiar challenges, the two-time champion still has his eyes focused on the biggest prizes

May 4, 2021
How Ingram's clean slate can end his BTCC title wait Plus

How Ingram's clean slate can end his BTCC title wait

After seven years together, Tom Ingram and Speedworks Motorsport have amicably split and gone down separate paths for the 2021 BTCC season. With engineer Spencer Aldridge joining him at the Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai squad, Ingram is confident he can challenge for titles from the off

Apr 30, 2021
How the unlikely Capri-slaying Dolomite triumphed against adversary Plus

How the unlikely Capri-slaying Dolomite triumphed against adversary

The Dolomite Sprint was a potent giantkilling weapon during the 1970s in the British Saloon Car Championship, now known as the BTCC. Tin-top legend Andy Rouse explains how it became such a force

Apr 25, 2021
The rollercoaster ride of West Surrey Racing's 40 years Plus

The rollercoaster ride of West Surrey Racing's 40 years

It’s four decades since one of UK motorsport’s most successful teams made its debut at Silverstone in British Formula 3. Now it’s top dog in the BTCC, time to blow out some candles with boss Dick Bennetts

Mar 12, 2021