Biela worrying Menu

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

It is almost a matter of course that Alain Menu heads the British Touring Car Championship field after qualifying these days. The series leader continued the trend for today's ninth and 10th rounds of the series here, taking his total of pole positions this year to six.

Despite his dominance of qualifying, the Williams-Renault driver was more preoccupied with the champion Frank Biela, who qualified third for the ninth round in his Audi Quattro, benefiting from a 39kg reduction in weight for the first time.

"The Audi is so fast off the line that if he gets ahead by the first corner, he'll be able to keep the rest of us behind," Menu said. "There are only a couple of real overtaking places here, and if he doesn't want anybody to get by he can drive fairly to do so.

Menu's closest threat in the 10th round may came from Sweden's Rickard Rydell. His Volvo claimed second on the grid, where he had been for round nine, only to be thrown to the back after missing a pit lane weight check. Rydell's TWR team has appealed.

The Cheshire track took its toll in other ways as well. Patrick Watts destroyed his Peugeot in Saturday's testing and Audi's John Bintcliffe crashed his car in qualifying for today's opening race.

A worse fate befell former champion Will Hoy. His Ford Mondeo plunged off the track at the Nickerbrook corner, charging the barriers and rolling before briefly catching fire. Hoy was unhurt but his car was destroyed, forcing him to miss today's races.