Returning champion Alain Menu says that the opening round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch on Sunday will be a voyage of discovery.
The Swiss driver, 50, won the championship driving a Renault Laguna in 1997 and then took the title again in a Ford Mondeo in 2000. He has been tempted back to the United Kingdom to drive the Team BMR Volkswagen CC, which has been built by the RML outfit.
Menu has only had four testing sessions ahead of the season but he says that he needs more seat time to get on top of the handling of the two-litre turbocharged car. “We haven’t done enough testing mileage, but I think the base is good and the car handles OK, even though I don’t think I have enough grip,” said Menu.
“It is hard for me to tell exactly where we are in terms of pace though, because I don’t have much experience of the Next Generation Touring Cars apart from the half-a-day test that I did with Team Dynamics last season [when Menu was on standby to replace the injured Matt Neal]. I have not practiced the starts, I have not done a long run and there are lots of things that we have yet to get on top of.”
Menu was third fastest in the official testing session which took place as part of the category’s media launch at Donington Park last week, just 0.13s off the fastest time set by reigning champion Andrew Jordan in his Honda Civic.
Menu, who has won 36 races over the course of his British Touring Car Championship career, says that the opening rounds will give him a chance to bank the experience he needs to chase wins later in the season.
“I don’t think I will be completely ready for Brands Hatch and I don’t think the team will be ready,” admits Menu. “The team works very hard just to get the cars ready, but I am looking at Brands Hatch as if it will still be a testing session. It will be an extended shakedown for us.”