Alain Menu has hailed a 'positive' start to his Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship preparations after debuting in Chrome Edition Restart Racing's Volkswagen CC at Croft.
The 50-year-old got behind the wheel of his new car for the first time at Croft this week, and professed himself satisfied with early progress – even if he concedes that being with such a young team, he will inevitably be on the back foot to begin with.
“It's been a good test,” Menu asserted, “The weather has been great, which was exactly what I needed for my first time in the car as it enabled us to get plenty of running in.
“The Team BMR guys seem like a really good bunch but we know we are not completely up-to-speed yet, so we have been focusing on learning how to work together and trying to improve the car. It will take a little while before we are where we want to be performance-wise but, for our first test, it has been promising – so far, so good. It has been a positive start and everything is going according to plan. The CC handles well and I'm feeling optimistic.
The Swiss ace, who clinched the BTCC drivers' crown with both Williams-Renault in 1997 and Ford in 2000 before leaving for the DTM and a more successful stint in the FIA World Touring Car Championship, is back in Britain for what is arguably shaping up to be the BTCC's most fiercely-disputed season, as no fewer than seven former titlewinners and a cluster of up-and-coming 'young guns' vie for glory.
“I'm excited to be back in the BTCC again – racing is my life and what I love doing,” he admitted, “It will be a challenge and, out on the track, there are a lot of young drivers who I know will be quick and who will give me a run for my money, but the ambition is to fight at the front and win races.
“The goal is clearly to attain the same level as the likes of Triple Eight, Team Dynamics and WSR. It would be foolish to think we are there yet, but there's no reason at all why we can't reach it in the fullness of time.”
Menu triumphed twice at Croft en route to lifting the 1997 BTCC laurels, and he clearly retains a great deal of affection for the popular north-east venue, which will host the UK's premier motor sport series over the weekend of 28-29 June.
“I've always enjoyed racing at Croft and have good memories of the circuit,” he continued. “Prior to this week, I hadn't been here since 2000, but I was able to pick it up again fairly quickly. It's an interesting track to drive, with a fun blend of different types of corners and it's a little bit bumpy in places.
“Croft always drew strong crowds when I was there before in the BTCC – and those crowds look like being even bigger this year now the championship is really booming again. I'm looking forward to coming back for the race meeting in June.”