Menu on top but all to play for at Oulton Park

Four rounds remain of this year's British Touring Car Championship and all of Ford's star driver trio are in with a shout of the driver's title. As the final push approaches, the battle starts this weekend at Oulton Park

Menu on top but all to play for at Oulton Park

"The gloves are off and we can fight it out between ourselves," said Reid after the last round at Brands Hatch. Although Vauxhall's Yvan Muller and Jason Plato have not yet given up hope entirely, it will take a disaster for someone other than a Blue Oval driver not to win the driver's title.

Alain Menu currently leads the standings on 173 points and is favourite to take the honours adding to his 1997 crown. The Swiss ace is six points up on Reid and 11 ahead of Rydell, with Muller and Plato 31 and 35 points adrift. However, it's not quite as simple as that because it's dropped score time.

Each driver must drop his lowest four scores, and with just four races to run, the time has come to discard some points. 'Mr Consistency' Reid suffers most, with a full 14 points to drop, where Menu has just two to lose and Rydell none. Muller and Plato need to drop three each.

It's not all doom and gloom for Reid though as he is the only Ford man going to Oulton unencumbered by success ballast. Extra weight didn't seem to hinder Menu and Rydell on the Cheshire circuit earlier in the year, but as the season has progressed the Mondeo's advantage over the rest has diminished and the weight has begun to make itself felt.

"The aim," says Menu, "is not to win both races, but to gain as many points as possible."

As Menu and Rydell - both with 40kg on-board - look for points to set themselves up for the final meeting, Reid is likely to face big challenges for the race wins from Vauxhall's Muller, and Honda duo James Thompson and Gabriele Tarquini. All three have shown flashes of pace through the season and have no success ballast to worry about. The Mondeos, Accords and Vectras have all been quick at Oulton this year, so the live televised races should make interesting viewing.

Traffic will of course play its part, as the biggest field of the season will take to the grid come Sunday. Another three competitive Class B cars will join the fray, in the shape of Ford Focuses for Simon Harrison and Gareth Howell and a Nissan Primera for Andy Middlehurst.

As at Brands Hatch the overall race leaders are likely to have to pick their way round, through or over a melee of Class B machines. Alan Morrison in his Peugeot 306 and James Kaye in a Honda Accord are the only real contenders for the Class B title. Both will be backed by respective team mates Dan Eaves and Mark Lemmer.

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