Round Nine Sprint Race Report

Ford's Alain Menu excelled on his favourite BTCC circuit to give the Blue Oval outfit a historic 500th BTCC win.

Round Nine Sprint Race Report

The Swiss star shrugged off his 30kg success ballast penalty (earned at Knockhill a fortnight earlier) to lead from lights to flag. Despite a couple of hairy moments lapping Class B cars, he left all the action and incident to his championship rivals behind.

Menu's team-mate Rickard Rydell had arrived at Oulton Park level on points at the top of the table, and Vauxhall's Yvan Muller was just seven points adrift in fourth.

But it was those two drivers who were the biggest losers in a first lap smash at the Island hairpin, halfway around the circuit.

Muller's Vectra was hit from behind as the cars, still jostling for position after the start, bunched up to get round the tight uphill bend. The force of the rear-end collision catapulted him into Rydell's Mondeo which spun the Swedish star into early retirement. Muller managed to limp back to the pits, but he was to play no further part in the race.

Jason Plato, in another Vauxhall Vectra, also suffered in the incident. He was forced to pit - while the Safety Car was on the track as Rydell's car was moved to a safe position - to change his front tyres, which had been flat-spotted in the skirmish.

He emerged from the pits in 12th position, a long way behind the leaders, and went on a charge, setting the fastest lap of the race and eventually finishing seventh. When the Safety Car returned to the pits after one lap, Honda's Tom Kristensen, who had started second, attempted to pass Menu, but the Ford man held him off brilliantly down the plunging 120mph Cascades bends.

Menu's defensive move allowed Vauxhall's Vincent Radermecker - who had moved from eighth on the grid to third at the hairpin crash - to take his opportunity and pass Kristensen for second. Radermecker attacked Menu for the remainder of the race, closing the gap to just half a second at one point. The Belgian star lost out, however, when rounding the Class B backmarkers on lap 11 and had to settle for second, equalling his best ever BTCC result.

Kristensen, in third, was chased home by team-mate James Thompson. The young Yorkshireman had bravely jumped from sixth to fourth on lap six in the manoeuvre of the race. In one move - which started at the final corner of the lap, Lodge, and finished at Old Hall, the first corner - he overtook both Michelin Cup for Independents leader Matt Neal (Nissan Primera) and Ford's Anthony Reid on the outside of the track.

The race-long battle between Neal and Reid, whose car was also damaged in the first lap hairpin incident, was then joined by Honda's round eight winner Gabriele Tarquini. The Italian managed to find a way past Neal, but spun out of contention on lap nine, which promoted the Nissan man back to sixth, a position he held to the end with Reid vigorously defending his fifth position.

In Class B, pole position man James Kaye was embroiled in a bumper-to-bumper early race battle with Alan Morrison's Touring Car VIP Club Peugeot 306. Kaye, driving Barwell Motorsport's Honda Accord, held off Morrison for four laps, but the class leader dived past at Old Hall at the start of lap five.

A lap later, however, Kaye found himself back in front when Morrison retired his car with clutch problems. Kaye went on to win with his team-mate Mark Lemmer second. The Bintcliffe Sport Racing pair of Robert Collard and Marc Nordon (both Primeras) came home third and fourth.

"I'm very happy," said Alain Menu. "It's Ford's 500th win and one for the history books. It's also good for my championship position. Like in any form of motor racing if you are leading on the first lap it is very difficult for the others to get by and win the race. I had a bit of difficulty with the extra weight especially braking going into corners then trying to get drive coming out of them."

"I made an OK start and kept my position, then everything happened at the hairpin," said Vincent Radermecker. "I came out of the corner in third place and I was quite happy with that! Tom then tried to overtake Alain and I got a better run out of the hairpin and got in front of him by the chicane. The gap between Alain and myself kept going down and up and down - it was difficult to get to him. The car was good all through the race and I am very happy with this finish."

"When the Safety Car went in I thought it would be my only chance to get past Alain," said Tom Kristensen. "He defended going into Old Hall and I got alongside through Cascades and I thought I could get past, but he defended again which made me lose momentum and Vincent got by. Although I lost out, at least I had a go at taking the lead off Alain, which I'm happy about."

"After rapidly going from hero to zero in qualifying, I'm pretty happy with the result," said Matt Neal. "After starting from the back I just tried to make up ground while avoiding any trouble if that happened up front. Obviously I made up places with the incident at the hairpin and I was right behind Anthony. I thought about having a go down the inside, but I didn't and I regretted that for the rest of the race. He was totally focused on keeping me behind."

"It's great to win again and get the points in the bag, but we've still got a long way to go to catch the Peugeot," said James Kaye. "I had one worrying moment - I could smell oil in the car so I radioed to the pits to ask the team to look at the car next time I went past, but they assured me it was from Alan's car, so I smiled about that."

Results: AUTO TRADER BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP - Oulton Park / 29 May 2000 Round 9

1 Alain Menu Ford Mondeo 23min 36.253sec
2 Vincent RadermeckerVauxhall Vectra +0.552s
3 Tom Kristensen Honda Accord +1.206s
4 James Thompson Honda Accord +2.576s
5 Anthony Reid Ford Mondeo +8.115s
6. Matt Neal* Nissan Primera GT +9.063s
7 Jason Plato Vauxhall Vectra +19.495s
8 Colin Blair* Nissan Primera GT +1:07.524s
9 Gabriele Tarquini Honda Accord 1 Lap
10 James kaye** Honda Accord 1 Lap
11 Mark Lemmer** Honda Intregra R 1 Lap
12 Robert Collard** Nissan Primera 1 Lap
13 Marc Norden** Nissan Primera 1 Lap

Michelin Cup for Independents winner: Matt Neal Nissan Primera GT
Class B winner: James Kaye Honda Accord
Fastest lap: Jason Plato Vauxhall Vectra 1m24.159sec, 101.03mph

Not Classified: Alan Morrison Peugeot 306 GTi (Clutch); Yvan Muller Vauxhall Vectra (Accident); Rickard Rydell Ford Mondeo (Accident)

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