Menu wins feature race

Alain Menu won round 20 of the British Touring Car Championship - the feature race at Brands Hatch - to move ahead of his Ford team mate Anthony Reid in the points standings again.

Menu wins feature race

The Swiss ace blitzed his opposition despite only starting sixth on the grid. "It was one of my best races ever," said Menu later. "I'm very pleased."

The win came on a wet track, after the heavens opened just before the start. Tom Kristensen was slow away from pole position and it was his team mate James Thompson who led the way into Paddock, with Kristensen second and Jason Plato third.

On the run down to Graham Hill bend Plato and Kristensen clashed. The Honda spun off to restart at the back, but Plato continued unhindered. The pair later had a slanging match in parc ferme.

A very angry Kristensen did not want to elaborate for the press, but Plato was not so shy. "We've already heard from James [Kaye] that he's a menace; he's had run-ins with Matt [Neal] too and we're all good reasonable people. The bloke's a prat."

The incident didn't attract any official sanction.

Plato was soon past Thompson and into the lead as the Yorkshireman struggled with the Honda's usual problem - getting heat into the tyres on a slippery surface. But although the Vauxhall was better in that respect than the Honda, neither could hold a candle to the Mondeo.

The first Blue Oval driver to show was Rydell, who quickly moved up to second place, pushing ever harder until he overdid it at Paddock and skated through the gravel. By then Menu had already moved up to third, which became second with Rydell's moment.

Menu soon hunted down Plato and on lap 11 moved into the lead, though not without exchanging plenty of paint with his former Renault team mate.

"He [Plato] comes up with all this bollocks about Kristensen," said Menu, "but he's not a fair driver himself." Once ahead, Menu was in charge to the end.

Rydell recovered from his Paddock slip, and ran quickly to the flag, overhauling Plato in the pits to be second, thanks partly to a mega performance from the Prodrive crew and partly to some backmarkers who held Plato up on his in-lap. Plato took the final podium slot.

Anthony Reid was fourth, rueing a sticking wheel at his stop which he reckoned cost him second place. Thompson ran strongly once he'd got his tyres up to temperature to finish fifth, with Yvan Muller sixth for Vauxhall.

Sprint race hero Matt Neal was out of luck this time. "I'm going to blame someone else," he explained. "I took some advice from Tim Harvey - the guru of wet-weather racing. He told me that I had to stay wide at paddock. I did and it was like sheet ice."

The Primera landed up in the gravel. It came out again, but with a damaged splitter which meant horrible understeer and ninth place a lap down.

Class B went to James Kaye this time. Early in the race he was challenged hard by Toni Ruokonen's Peugeot, but soon both the Finn and his team mate Alan Morrison were in electrical trouble. With inoperative wipers and de-misters, neither could see much and dropped away.

Tom Ferrier in the Alfa was next to take up the challenge, but he hit a kerb, suffered brake pad knock-off and a major moment which dropped him to fourth in class. The teenager was disappointed with that, but even more so, by the improving track conditions. "When it was really wet, we were quickest," he said, "we could even have won."

In the end Robert Collard's Nissan was second, and it might even have been a win, when Kaye slid off at Paddock after moving a little too wide to let the leaders through. Mark Lemmer was third and Ferrier fourth.

The series now moves on to Oulton Park which is traditionally points-leader Menu's territory. However Reid is only six points behind and he will run 40kg lighter than Menu at the Cheshire track. "That will be a significant factor out of the chicane and the hairpin," said Reid.

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