BY GWYN DOLPHIN
Alain Menu gave the Williams touring car team its first success in the British Touring Car Championship with victory in the fifth round of the series at Thruxton yesterday. The Swiss driver later followed that with a second place behind James Thompson's Vauxhall to take the lead in the drivers' championship.
From pole position, Menu's Renault initially controlled the first race. However, he came under intense pressure from the Scot, John Cleland, in a Vauxhall, during the closing laps, and only managed to win by 0.3sec. "I had to drive quite defensively for the last few laps because John was right on my tail and gave me a really hard time," Menu admitted.
Thompson should have been third in the opening event, but his Cavalier blew a tyre on the high-speed sweeps of the Hampshire track. That allowed the Peugeot driver, Patrick Watts, to complete the podium finishers, ahead of Tim Sugden (Toyota), David Brabham (BMW) and Giampiero Simoni (Alfa Romeo).
Thompson made amends in the second race by dominating proceedings, thus becoming the youngest driver to win a BTCC event. "I concentrated on making a good start and after that all I had to do was look in my mirror occasionally," the 21-year-old said.
Menu trailed the Yorkshireman home but still claimed the championship lead, while Kelvin Burt (Ford) held off Rickard Rydell's Volvo for third place. Burt had finished the first race in the bushes surrounding the track following a tyre explosion. However, the biggest accident of the day befell Australia's Charlie Cox, who caused the second race to be halted after rolling his Ford several times at high speed. Cox was hospitalised with bad bruising following the incident.
Cleland came in fifth with Paul Radisch completing the top six. The former championship leader, Tim Harvey, suffered tyre trouble with his Volvo, finishing seventh.
BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP (Thruxton Park) Fifth round: 1 A Menu (Renault) 26min 39.08sec; 2 J Cleland (Vauxhall) +0.33sec; 3 P Watts (Peugeot) +26.17; 4 T Sugden (Toyota) +29.48; 5 D Brabham (BMW) +30.55; 6 G Simoni (Alfa Romeo) +30.90. Sixth round: 1 J Thompson (Vauxhall) 22min 38.48sec; 2 Menu +2.85sec; 3 K Burt (Ford) +6.9; 4 R Rydell (Volvo) +7.09; 5 Cleland +13.6; 6 Radisich (Ford) +14.9. Fastest lap: Menu 1min 18.61sec (107.89mph).
Championship standings: Drivers: 1 Menu 76pts; 2 Cleland 68; 3 Harvey 67; 4 Rydell 58; 5 Thompson 50; 6 Radisich 42. Manufacturers: 1 Vauxhall 102pts; 2 Volvo 95; 3 Renault 88; 4 Ford 64; 5 BMW 49; 6 Toyota 40.Reuse content