Motor racing: Menu stays the course

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Despite the efforts of chief rivals Rickard Rydell and Gabriele Tarquini, Alain Menu further extended his British Touring Car Championship lead at Croft yesterday with another double win.

Appalling weather had washed out Saturday's qualifying, leaving 140,000 gallons water to be pumped from the track, but a crowd of 28,000 still turned out to watch the first major meeting at the former airfield. They saw Menu give best to Rydell in the opening laps of the 13th round of the series, seemingly happy to accept second place.

"I wasn't pushing that hard," Menu said. "With the championship lead that I have, I was happy to be second to Rydell."

However, when Tarquini moved his Honda into third place, Menu stepped up a gear, passing Rydell to lead and taking Tarquini with him. The Italian former champion closed on the race leader's Renault until, as they lapped Robb Gravett's slower car, Tarquini put his Honda on the damp side of the track and slid off.

Jason Plato also found a way past Rydell to give the Williams team another one-two finish, while reigning champion Frank Biela launched his Audi into a fruitless last-lap attack on Rydell.

Menu had an easier time in the second race, aided by three safety car periods in a race of constant action. The first incident came when the Ford of Will Hoy was pushed off at the first corner. The second was a result of Tarquini crashing his Honda at the chicane without injury.

When the field returned to racing from the latter incident, Tarquini's team-mate James Thompson lost control at the same place, slamming into the barriers. With the young Yorkshireman stuck in his car, the race was stopped. Thompson was later released from the car complaining of neck and back pains.

With the results being called a lap before the crash, Menu finished ahead of Thompson with David Leslie's Nissan in third. Biela's Audi fell from contention after an early clash while Rydell dropped down the field after a first-lap spin which also delayed Tarquini.