17 May 2009
Menu opens seasonal account amongst mayhem
Alain Menu has secured his first victory of the World Touring Car Championship season – and Chevrolet's fourth in a row – after a chaotic second race on the streets of Pau.
Menu had started on pole thanks to reverse grid, but lost out to the BMW of Franz Engstler on the run to turn one, with the Independent driver getting a better run away from the line to sweep into the lead. Behind however, a chain of events was starting that would play a major role in how the race panned out.
Through turn one, Jorg Muller found himself on the outside of Andy Priaulx but contact between the pair saw the two BMWs go into the barriers, with Muller suffering plenty of damage to the front left of his car and Priaulx continuing with the rear bumper hanging from his car.
Then, as the field headed up to turn two, Felix Porteiro – who briefly got ahead of Menu off the start – found himself alongside Sergio Hernandez and tipped the Spaniard into a spin backwards into the barriers. While the field managed to avoid the BMW Team Italy-Spain car, it then briefly caught fire on the rear. Before the first lap was complete, a third car was also in the wall after Tom Boardman got out of shape and slid into the barriers, breaking the rear suspension and leaving his car crabbing along the circuit.
The Safety Car was deployed as a result of Hernandez's stricken car, but as Engstler came around the blind kink at the end of the start-finish straight, the Safety Car suddenly jinked out from the pitlane – leaving the German with nowhere to go. Despite managing to avoid slamming straight into the rear of the slow moving car, Engstler still made heavy contact with the left hand side of the car and ripped the right hand side from his BMW 320si. With the two damaged cars on the circuit, the race was suspended while the clear up took place.
A replacement Safety Car was found for the restart, with Menu leading the field away ahead of Porteiro, although he was removed from the battle when given a drive-through penalty for the incident with Hernandez, which allowed Augusto Farfus, Rob Huff and Andy Priaulx through. Despite the two BMW drivers harrying the Chevrolet's ahead, the positions would remain unchanged through to the flag as Menu opened his account for the year.
Alex Zanardi took fifth after battling his way though the field ahead of SEAT pairing Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller, who at least salvaged some points from a miserable weekend for the works team.
Independent runner Eric Cayrolle rounded out the points scorers in eighth place, despite being involved in an accident with Nicola Larini that forced the race to be ended by a red flag. However, the Frenchman was confirmed in the position with the result being taken back to the positions at the end of the previous racing lap.
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