Menu is forced to wait for his title

Click to follow
Alain Menu came here with a real chance of securing the British Touring Car Crown with eight races still to run. But the Scottish track has never been kind to him. Five years ago he broke his leg there. This time he left physically intact, but by registering his only retirement of the season he was forced to postpone his title celebrations.

Forced to play second fiddle to the resurgent Audis in qualifying, he could do little about John Vintcliffe and Frank Biela in round 15 of the series. But that was as good as it got for Menu. Come round 16, a first- lap tangle with James Thompson's Honda sent him down the field, colliding a few corners later with Rickard Rydell's Volvo and further damaging his Renault.

Thompson's car piled off into the barriers, causing a safety car to control the field for five laps. At the race restart Menu attempted to pass Rydell, but the two made contact once again, to the detriment of the championship leader's car. By half-distance he was in the pits, recording his first retirement of the year.

"At the first start the green light came on very quickly, and I was caught out. Then Thompson pushed inside me and I was forced wide at the second corner, but later on when Rydell was ahead of me, I had to dive across the kerb to try and pass him. That forced my car into the air, then into him and when we touched my car's transmission was damaged so I was forced to retire," the Swiss driver explained.

If it was not to be Menu's day then it certainly was Audis, and especially for the young and often maligned Vintcliffe. Starting the opening race from pole position, he pulled away to lead easily, and despite extreme pressure from reigning champion and team-mate Biela, he held on to score his first BTCC win.

With his first victory secured, Vintcliffe could afford to let Biela claim the honours in round 16. The two Audis held sway from the start, despite touching at the first corner, and the 1996 BTCC champion recorded his third win of the year. Behind them, Anthony Reid, Gabriele Tarquini and Rickard Rydell squabbled for third position.

Scotsman Reid seemed certain of the final podium place in his Nissan. However, a rude tap from behind by Tarquini damaged the Nissan's exhaust, forcing its engine to cut out. Tarquini claimed third as the pressure from Rydell disappeared when the Volvo's passenger door swung loose, forcing the Swede to pit for rapid repairs.