Ford dominate as Menu moves to the top

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The Independent Online

A win and a fourth place for Alain Menu here moved the Swiss Ford star to the top of the British Touring Car Championship standings again, as the series moves into its closing rounds.

A win and a fourth place for Alain Menu here moved the Swiss Ford star to the top of the British Touring Car Championship standings again, as the series moves into its closing rounds.

The underdog Matt Neal, in the independently-run Team Dynamics Nissan Primera, scored a crowd-pleasing win in the other race, but overall it was a Ford weekend, as the Blue Oval's drivers edged away from Vauxhall's Yvan Muller and Jason Plato - the only non-Ford men with any remaining chance of winning the drivers' title.

The shorter sprint race was full of incident as the championship-chasing super touring drivers tripped over Class B cars while lapping them.

The Swede, Rickard Rydell, took his Ford straight into the lead from pole position, but his team-mate Anthony Reid was slow away from second on the grid.

Honda's Tom Kristensen, by contrast, made a great start to move ahead of Neal and into second place. Rydell tripped up first, half-spinning on oil dropped by a Class B car, and then Kristensen ran in to the back of fellow Honda Accord driver James Kaye. That handed Neal a lead he hung onto doggedly to the end. Kristensen was a close second, with Rydell third and Menu fourth.

In the longer sprint, poleman Kristensen was beaten away by his team-mate James Thompson at the start. The Dane then hit further trouble mid-way round the first lap, tangling with Plato and spinning wildly.

Later the pair became involved in a bad-tempered verbal spat, but officials saw no reason to penalise either driver.

Plato was soon up on Thompson's tail and on the second lap he grabbed the lead.

"Our car is just too hard to balance on cold tyres," said Thompson. And Plato was later to make a similar comment. "The Ford has the advantage in the early laps," he said after being passed by Menu. The Swiss had started back in sixth place, but picked his rivals off one by one until he took the lead on lap 11. Thereafter he was in control right up to the chequered flag. Plato held second for much of the race, but lost out to Rydell before the chequered flag. The Swede had recovered from a trip into the gravel trap at Paddock bend early in the race.

Plato held onto third, while Reid was fourth, despite a slow pit stop when a wheel jammed.

Neal, the hero of the first race, was out of luck after trying a line round Paddock bend recommended by his team manager Tim Harvey - the 1992 BTCC drivers champion - and finding it: "like sheet ice." The damage incurred in the subsequent trip across the gravel ruined his race.

Meanwhile, the Big Brother reject Andrew Davidson - the second contestant to be voted out of the docu-soap household - raced in the BTCC-supporting Ford Fiesta race.

Davidson, who was once a promising kart racer, had no more luck than he did in TV-land, crashing the Ford-funded car three times, during testing and races.

"This has been the best thing I have been asked to do since leaving the Big Brother house," said Davidson, who hopes to forge a career in TV presenting. Davidson's younger brother, Anthony, is a leading light in the Formula Ford single-seater class and finished second in today's race for his category.

AUTO TRADER BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP (Brands Hatch) Round 19 (25 laps): 1 M Neal (GB) Nissan Primera 20mins 13.853secs, 2 T Kristensen (Den) Honda Accord at 0.595secs, 3 R Rydell (Swe) Ford Mondeo 1.017, 4 A Menu (Swit) Ford Mondeo 3.589, 5 Y Muller (Fr) Vauxhall Vectra 4.378, 6 J Thompson (GB) Honda Accord 4.643, 7 J Plato (GB) Vauxhall Vectra 5.592, 8 A Reid (GB) Ford Mondeo 6.757, 9 G Tarquini (It) Honda Accord 7.359, 10 V Radermecker (Bel) Vauxhall Vectra 25.435. Round 20 (50 laps): 1 Menu 44mins 13.353secs, 2 Rydell at 3.368secs, 3 Plato at 3.466, 4 Reid at 17.041, 5 Thompson at 18.113, 6 Muller at 18.473, 7 Radermecker at 21.952, 8 Kristensen at 27.519, 9 Neal at 1 lap, 10 Tarquini at 2 laps. Drivers' championship standings: 1 Menu 173pts, 2 Reid 167, 3 Rydell 162, 4 Muller 142, 5 Plato 138, 6 Tarquini 115. Manufacturers' championship standings: 1 Ford 496 (provisional champions), 2 Vauxhall 358, 3 Honda 347.

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