Menu's young team-mate, Jason Plato, qualified second and fourth, but Renault may not have it all their own way.
Thruxton, with its combination of flat-out corners, is a difficult track and last season Menu's involvement ended when he hurtled into the trees. "Looking after your tyres here is vital," the championship leader said. "Temperatures can reach over 100 degrees on the front left tyre. You have to combine skill with sense."
Lurking in fourth spot on the grid for the first race is the reigning champion, Frank Biela, in his four-wheel drive Audi A4. His team- mate John Bintcliffe is fifth for the second race. The Honda Accords of Gabriele Tarquini and James Thompson are also well placed.