Motor racing: Menu miles ahead as Tarquini fumes over stop-go penalty

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Alain Menu moved into an almost unbeatable position at the head of the British Touring Car Championship table with a second place and a victory here yesterday.

Watched by a 25,000-strong crowd, the Swiss driver was unable to beat the four-wheel- drive Audi A4 of the reigning champion, Frank Biela, in the wet of the first race, but confusion during the second enabled the Renault Laguna driver to score another important victory. Menu is now a seemingly insurmountable 91 points ahead of Volvo's second-placed Rickard Rydell, with half of the 24-race season completed.

The second race saw Kelvin Burt and Gabriele Tarquini jump the start and slip past the pole-sitter Menu when he ran wide on the opening lap, but the pair were ordered to make 10-second, stop-go, pit stops.

Burt's Volvo team were given the penalty information first and, as the pace car was called into action while Rob Gravett's beached Honda was removed from a gravel trap, the Briton made his stop and lost minimal time.

In contrast, Tarquini's Honda team were unable to capitalise on the pace- car period. "The officials left it too late to tell us what was happening," the former champion said. "When I finally knew that I had to come into the pits I was leading the race, but there was no chance to make a good tactical decision." He finally finished sixth after breaking the lap record as he fought back from the penalty stop.

Tarquini's departure from the fray also led to the downfall of his team- mate James Thompson. Already unhappy at losing a fourth-place finish in the first race after tangling with Tim Harvey's Peugeot, Thompson was right on the tails of Tarquini and Menu as the pace-car period ended.

However, with Tarquini heading for the pits at slow speed, Menu was also delayed. As the cars behind built up speed, Thompson's Honda was struck by Jason Plato's Renault which in turn had been hit by Harvey. Thompson spun to the tail of the field and Plato was later forced to retire, while Menu escaped to secure victory.

Results, Digest, page 19