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BTCC Memorable Drives: Groundhog Day at Oulton Park

Image taken from: insidebtcc.com

Image taken from: insidebtcc.com

With the next round of the 2015 BTCC season at Oulton Park fast approaching, I thought I would take an alternative slant on proceedings. Instead of yet another Oulton Park preview post, of which you will find many, I thought it best to take a drive down memory lane. Today marks the glorious return of BTCC Memorable Drives, and I have chosen one of my favourite moments from the Super Touring era. What happens when you take Alain Menu in a blisteringly fast Renault and put him behind Paul Radisich in a not-so-fast Peugeot at Oulton Park?

The 1997 season of the BTCC was utterly dominated by Alain Menu in the Williams Renault. But the arrival of 1998 would not bring such returning fortune for the Swiss-ace. In a year dominated by cripplingly awful luck, Menu was not destined to win the title, despite often showing he had the fastest car on the grid. Nowhere else was this more apparent than at Oulton Park, where Menu had developed somewhat of a reputation in his years in the series.

After a rocky start to his 1998 campaign, Menu must have been relieved to arrive at Oulton Park, given his previous record. The sprint race confirmed his abilities once more with a resounding victory over Rickard Rydell in the Volvo. The feature race looked set to repeat his returning dominance as he shot off into the lead, and even managed to retain his advantage after the pit stop.

But the great touring car gods were not shining brightly for Menu on that day.

Cue Paul Radisich.

Image taken from: toplowridersites.com

Image taken from: toplowridersites.com

The 1998 Peugeot was not the fastest machine to take to the track. What they did have on their side however was driving talent in the form of Tim Harvey and Paul Radisich. In the world of motorsport, sometimes defence can be just as profitable as offence. Paul Radisich was just about to prove that.

The charging Menu found himself behind Radisich as the theoretical race leader, but Radisich was still ahead of him on the road. The Peugeot team had told him to stay out as long as possible to get the point given to drivers who lead a lap of a race. Considering the entire BTCC community seemed to think that the Peugeot team were down on power and performance, Radisich put up a tremendous defensive effort against Menu. The frustration clearly got too much for Menu, who eventually shoved poor Paul Radisich out the way into Fosters, nearly losing the lead to Plato through Cascades.

After conceding defeat and having been swallowed up by the chasing pack, Radisich yielded and pitted at the end of the lap. Finally Menu had some clean air and a chance to drive away to his second win of the day.

Or so he thought.

A problem in the pits left Radisich stranded for what seemed like centuries, before finally being released. And I will give you three guesses who he exited the pits in front of. Oh yes, the Swiss ace once more had his view filled by his favourite Peugeot driver. As they flew down the Avenue into Cascades, Menu made his move again, leading to what may just be one of my favourite bits of commentary from Mr Charlie Cox,

“He must think he’s like Bill Murray in that movie groundhog day, every day’s the same! Every laps the same! Every time he comes around he has to pass Radisich! And he’s having to do it again! He’s passing Radisich… He’s more than passing Radisich he’s off!

In his eagerness to re-pass the Peugeot, Menu lost his usually unbreakable concentration and shot his Renault up the inside at the first opportunity he could find. Considering the field massing behind him, normally it is the most sensible thing to do to clear lapped traffic as soon as possible. But in his case, the phrase more haste less speed was applicable. He may have indeed thrown his car up the inside, but he did kind of forget to brake, shooting the car off wide onto the grass.

This uncharacteristically silly move from Alain Menu lost him not only the race lead, but ultimately a podium position as Anthony Reid would also pass him before the chequered flag.

But words can only do so much: for your viewing pleasure here is that incident for your aural pleasure:

Alain Menu is Bill Murray in Groundhog Day!

It just goes to show, motorsport is not just about overtaking. As Menu discovered to his detriment, sometimes a bit of thought and forward planning goes a very long way!

Let’s hope this weekend will be just as action packed!

Don’t forget, like, comment and share with your own favourite memories from Oulton Park and the BTCC!

Use #BTCCDrives or #BTCCOultonMemories to join the conversation!

As ever, follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

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