Menu holds off Rydell as Ford dominate podium

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The Independent Online

Switzerland's Alain Menu won the third and fourth round of the British Touring Car Championship here yesterday as Ford packed the top order.

The established Ford driver Menu kept his new team-mate and fellow former champion, Rickard Rydell, behind him in both races, even though Rydell started both rounds from pole position. "It's a fantastic result for all the boys in the team," Menu said. "Nobody can really believe it but everyone worked so hard over the winter to help us towards this sort of success."

The longer feature race was a tense affair, decided on pit-stop strategy. Rydell had led the way through the first half of the race, but his earlier stop - not timed as he wanted it - left him off the lead. Menu emerged from his later stop just ahead and the Swiss defended his position robustly as Rydell found himself attacked by the third Ford driven by Scotland's Anthony Reid.

Menu held on to his advantage and eventually pulled away to win, while Rydell had to defend his position from Honda's Gabriele Tarquini, the only non-Ford driver to feature over the weekend. The Italian eventually muscled his way past Rydell to take a fine second place with Rydell third and Reid fourth.

Menu had earlier surprised his team-mates as he surged past them on the way to the first corner in the sprint race. Rydell held on to second place throughout, though he looked vulnerable in the early laps and had to work hard to keep Reid at bay.

Tarquini led the challengers and made his presence felt in Reid's mirrors, without ever being able to pass. The Italian led Honda's challenge in the absence of the pre-season favourite James Thompson, who withdrew from the event suffering severe headaches, a result of an accident in round two which left him with concussion. The Yorkshireman aims to rejoin the series on Monday at Thruxton.

England's other title hope, Jason Plato, who led on points after round two, saw his hopes dive when he managed only a sixth and a seventh place here. Plato let his French team-mate, Yvan Muller, past in the feature race following team orders, and now looks to have been edged into a No 2 role at Vauxhall.

AUTO TRADER BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP (Donington Park) Third Round (18 laps): 1 A Menu (Swit) Ford Mondeo 21mins 38.350secs; 2 R Rydell (Swe) Ford Mondeo +0.738sec; 3 A Reid (GB) Ford Mondeo +1.409; 4 G Tarquini (It) Honda Accord +2.818; 5 T Kristensen (Den) Honda Accord +3.761, 6 J Plato (GB) Vauxhall Vectra +10.160; 7 V Radermecker (Bel) Vauxhall Vectra +11.246; 8 M Neal (GB) Nissan Primera +11.550; 9 C Blair (GB) Nissan Primera +47.021; 10 A Morrison (GB) Peugeot 306 +1 lap. Fourth round (36 laps): 1 Menu 43min 40.921sec; 2 Tarquini +3.423sec; 3 Rydell +5.388; 4 Reid +6.883; 5 Y Muller (Fr) Vauxhall Vectra +17.465; 6 Kristensen +17.615; 7 Plato +18.060; 8 Neal 34.249; 9 P Kox (Neth) Honda Accord +43.504; 10 Blair +1 lap. Drivers' standings: 1 Menu 53pts; 2 Rydell 44; 3 Reid 37; 4 Plato 33; 5 Tarquini 29; 6 Muller 28. Manufacturers: 1 Ford 125; 2 Vauxhall 73; 3 Honda 44.

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