Chevrolet driver Alain Menu lost just five points to Yvan Muller during the Race of Portugal, and closes by four points to Rob Huff after fifth and a win whilst racing in the guise of fictional French racing driver Michel Vaillant.
After qualifying in ninth place after a mistake on his only run in qualifying, Menu qualified in ninth but recovered ground in race one to finish in fifth position and claim ten points in the Championship, though he was involved in a few battles on the way in order to move up the order with the two ROAL BMWs, Tiago Monteiro’s SUNRED and Aleksei Dudukalo, for which he was warned by the stewards.
In the second race, starting on the front row alongside the 17-year-old Pepe Oriola, Menu was able to take the lead and build a gap to the fighting duo behind him of Oriola and Tom Coronel, and went on to take his third win of the season. He’s now one ahead of Rob Huff in terms of wins, but three behind team-mate Yvan Muller.
“It’s great to win for Michel Vaillant on his first WTCC race weekend,” said Menu. “It was a fantastic job than Chevrolet and RML did to prepare and ensure that Michel Vaillant would be a success, and it’s the icing on the cake to win race two for sure, but for me it’s 25 points towards the Championship.”
Menu’s gap was over six seconds over Oriola’s SUNRED SEAT León after the first few laps, but later the gap reduced as he backed off to conserve his tyres.
“First I did a good start which helped, the first for a long time, and then I wanted to get a gap because I wasn’t sure if Yvan (Muller) or Rob (Huff) would overtake everyone and then come back and fight with me, so I pushed hard. I worked with my race engineer to change the car set-up between race one and race two as I was not happy with race one, and the car was much better.”
When asked whether he’d resume the Michel Vaillant persona in future races after the success it brought him this weekend, Menu added:
“It would be nice, but now I think it’s time to get back to who I am.”