Former two-time British Touring Car Championship title winner Alain Menu admitted that his return to the series with Team BMR Racing is “exciting”, after being announced as one of the team’s four drivers for 2014.
Menu claimed the BTCC crown back in both 1997 and 2000 with Renault and Ford’s works squads respectively, and will make his series comeback in different surroundings with Warren Scott‘s BMR squad this year racing a Volkswagen CC alongside Jack Goff, Aron Smith and Scott himself.
The Swiss, who has been a multiple race winner in the World Touring Car Championship with Chevrolet since 2005 until the conclusion of the 2012 campaign, agreed a deal which will see him return the the British championship for the first time since a one-off outing for Vauxhall in 2007 at the Thruxton finale, announced via Youtube at 20:00 BST by the squad.
On his comeback to the BTCC, Menu could not contain his nostalgia and is relishing a return to the sport he made himself known after more than 200 starts, saying: “This is exciting. The best times of my career have been in the BTCC, and it’s going to be nice to see many people I’ve not seen for many years.
“I’m well aware that it will be different with a new team and new cars, but I’ve been watching the races, have spoken to a lot of people about it and the championship is really picking up at the moment. With lots of competitors, spectators and live TV, there are many reasons to be here.
“I got a call in early December – the plan all sounded good, so I came over to the UK around Christmas time to meet with Warren [Scott] and the team. Their plans and approach to the project are very appealing, we’re all highly motivated and it is our aim to be among the teams at the front.
Menu remained cautious of the challenge ahead to potentially become a three-time BTCC champion, returning to the grid with the likes of triple champion Matt Neal and former team-mate Jason Plato. The Swiss ace admits that the season will be tough in his bid for success, but emphasised that he will enjoy every moment of his comeback to the BTCC circuits.
“I am taking a realistic approach of course, it will take us some time and there are a few unknowns,” added Menu, who will begin testing prior to the BTCC official media day on 18 March. “I think we have a good opportunity to grab some strong results.
“I want to have fun too, this is a very important part of racing for me. It will be nice to race against people like Matt Neal again, and Gordon Shedden was trying to break into the BTCC just as I left so I’m looking forward to racing against him. Jason [Plato] has matured since we were team-mates too, so I’m sure we’ll get on well.
“Plus there is a whole generation of new talented drivers out there, so 2014 should be very exciting. I’m also looking forward to racing on the fantastic British circuits again. The tracks are great and the public are always enthusiastic. We’re going to have some test days soon, so I’ll know then what work needs to be done, but I’m sure it’ll all come back to me very quickly.”
Having revealled that an intial attempt during the winter to sign Colin Turkington fell through, team owner Scott admitted his excitement for 2014 after completing the signing of Menu, and expanding to a four-car operation over the winter with a pair of Volkswagen CC and Vauxhall Insignia machines previously run by Tony Gilham Racing.
Scott said: “We’re incredibly excited about the year ahead. We’ve worked very hard getting the cars prepared this winter. For us it was key to build a team that can make front-running cars before going after drivers that can challenge for the championship. I am extremely proud to be associated with such an enthusiastic group of hardworking people that make up the newly formed Team BMR.
“From Tony Gilham who is coordinating, Geoff Kingston our newly appointed chief engineer, Alan Cole and Mark Turner who manage the team, through to the all important mechanics and other boys that are working tirelessly, with no effort spared into producing the foundations of what I anticipate to be a very successful team.
“Once we had everything in place we approached Alain, and he’s been fantastic from the very first meeting we had. He’s really enthusiastic and has loads of ideas for the season ahead. His experience is massive, and having him alongside already quick drivers in Aron Smith and Jack Goff is going to make the team a strong force in the pit lane. For myself as a relatively inexperienced driver it’s going to be amazing to learn from him and help push the team in the right direction.”
Scott will race at his own squad after his debut campaign in the BTCC in 2013, and targets wins and rostrum visits consistently during the year for his squad with the added talent at his disposal.
He added: “We are aiming to challenge at the front this year, to get podiums and hopefully race wins. Alain has the skill and experience to be a real contender, and with the work we’ve put into the cars we should be in the hunt for the independents’ championships come the end of the year. There’s no reason why this can’t be achieved, and I hope that the set-up we’re creating now will stay with us to form a long-term programme that can go on to more success in the coming years.”