Alain Menu: “It’s like coming back home”
After the dust settled on the sensational announcement confirming Alain Menu’s return to the BTCC in 2014, we caught up with the Swiss superstar from his home in Monaco.
“It has been a long time – 14 years,” said Menu on his return to Britain’s biggest motor sport series. “I’m very happy about it but I’ll keep my feet on the ground. It’ll be very nice to be back – I lived in the UK for 18 years and the bulk of my career I drove in the UK, plus I have many friends there, so for me it’s like coming back home in a way.”
News of Alain’s comeback sent shockwaves around the motor racing world when it was revealed here on btcc.net last week, so we asked the man himself how the deal came about to race a VW Passat with new tin top squad – BMR Restart.
“The first call I got was from Geoff Kingston, the Chief Engineer, who I worked with back in 1992 – my first year in the BTCC,” Menu continued. “He told me what it was all about, what the plans are, and I liked it. I called Warren [Scott] and organised a meeting in the UK. The fact that Geoff is there is very important for me but after meeting Warren I have faith in him, his ambition and his will to get to the top of the BTCC. There are a few unknowns for sure but it looks very promising, so I decided quite quickly after that meeting to do it.”
Menu will always be linked with the Super Touring era, having secured two titles in 1997 and 2000 with Renault and Ford respectively, but the former champion is now excited about the BTCC’s current generation and the thriving championship that he’ll be racing in this season.
“It’s part of the attraction for my return,” he beamed. “I spoke to a few people like Tim Harvey. The crowds are there and it’s live on TV and there will be at least six former champions on the grid. I’m not a young guy any more – it will be nice to go up against younger drivers and I am told there are quite a few who are promising. I just want to have fun and win a race again in the BTCC.
“It’s nice in life to find some new challenges and this one is. I know I’m going to back to the UK and to circuits I know, up against some drivers from the past, but there will be some new drivers, new teams, new people, new fans… all of this is part of why I’m coming back.”
Taking time to mention his excitement about returning to circuits like Thruxton, Oulton Park and Brands Hatch in particular, Menu is not concerned by his relative lack of running in an NGTC car and believes his wealth of experience will be the most important factor for his comeback.
“I did a test a few days before the last BTCC round last year in Matt Neal’s car, so I know what to expect and how the car behaves. It will not be an unknown – a front-wheel touring car is a front-wheel touring car.
“I still want to compete – this is my life and it’s what I’ve done for the last 30 years and what I dreamed about as a kid. I’m lucky enough to still be doing it and that in itself is more than enough incentive to do what’s needed to be ready for the new season.”
Menu’s preparation for the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will of course include some significant testing, although plans are yet to be finalised.
“It will be very early March,” he concluded. “We will have more testing than what Warren originally thought of at Christmas, which again proves his commitment, dedication and will to get there sooner rather than later.”
Team boss Warren Scott will also drive for his squad throughout the 2014 season – starting the campaign in a Vauxhall Insignia before a planned switch to a third VW Passat. Exciting young guns’ Aron Smith and Jack Goff, who will drive a Passat and Insignia respectively, complete the squad’s promising line-up.
A full interview with Alain will also be published in this week’s AUTOSPORT magazine