Alain Menu is a racing driver from Switzerland and one of the world’s best touring car drivers in the last decade of the 20th century.
He has two British Touring Car Championship titles on his account, winning the championship in 1997 and 2000, but he was also the front-runner for many years in the World Touring Car Championship, scoring 23 WTCC victories and becoming a vice-champion in 2012.
Beginning in the formula racing
Born in August 1963 in Geneva, Alain Menu began his racing career relatively late. In 1984, Alain went to the Elf Winfield racing school in France and in 1985, he made his racing debut. Menu’s first impact was in 1986 when he finished 3rd in the French Formula Ford Championship. The following year, he entered the British Formula Ford Championship and finished the season as a runner-up. Menu also finished 2nd in the Formula Ford Festival that year.
He stayed in the UK and competed in the British Formula 3 Championship but without too much success. In 1990, he was a vice-champion in the British Formula 3000 Championship in which he scored two wins. In 1991, his last year in the open-wheel racing, Menu drove in the International Formula 3000 Championship.
British Touring Car Championship debut in 1992
In 1992, Alain debuted in the British Touring Car Championship, one of the strongest touring car racing series in the world. Driving a BMW 318is of Team M Mobil, Menu finished 9th in the standings. His highlight of the season was the 3rd place in the race at Snetterton.
In the middle of the season, the Swiss driver was badly injured in the accident driving a quad bike at Knockhill. Due to his injuries, Alain was unable to jog and was forced to take cycling as his main exercise to stay fit throughout the whole career.
Six BTCC years with Renault
Menu stayed in the BTCC, but in 1993 he switched to Renault, driving a Renault 19 and Renault Laguna for six years. During his first year in the car of the French manufacturer, he scored his maiden win in the series, at Donington Park and he took the 10th place overall.
The following season was much better for the Swiss racer. In 1994, he scored two wins and had other eight podium finishes which pushed him to the 2nd place in the championship standings, 76 points behind a champion Gabriele Tarquini.
BTCC runner-up three years in a row
After that result, Menu was rightfully considered as one of the title favorites and in the next two seasons, he was a vice-champion. In 1995, driving for the Renault team (that was taken over by Williams F1 team) Alain had six wins on his account but still finished 43 points behind John Cleland.
In 1996, Menu was again in a good shape, especially in the second half of the campaign. Four wins and a total of 11 podiums were enough for another vice-champion title. This time Alain lost to another racing legend, Frank Biela in Audi Quattro, by a huge margin of 92 points.
1997 - BTCC trophy was finally in Menu’s hands
In 1997 he was finally crowned as the British Touring Car champion. Alain’s form was brilliant as he won 12 out of 24 races that year. He added other eight podium finishes to that number and with 281 points he won the title, 110 points ahead of Biela.
Menu couldn’t defend his title in 1998, his final year with Renault, but still, he did a good job. The Renault Laguna was not as dominant as it was before, so three race wins and numerous podium finishes were enough only for the 4th position in the Drivers’ championship.
Switch to Ford and another title
In 1999, Menu switched to Ford Mondeo and his first year with a new car was marked with a lot of retirements. However, the Swiss driver won the race at Knockhill and had other three finishes in top 3 and took the 11th place in the final classification which was his worst result in the BTCC.
The following year was completely different. He drove the same car and won his second title. He scored six wins and finished the season with a margin of just two points ahead of Anthony Reid.
The same year Menu debuted in the V8 Supercars championship, driving a Ford Falcon in the Bathurst 1000 and taking the 18th position. Over the years he had more appearings in the Australian touring cars championship but he never made a serious impact.
Unsuccessful try in DTM championship
When he left BTCC, Menu moved to Germany to race in DTM series. He spent three years driving an Opel Astra Coupe but the results were far below the expected level. During 2001, Alain failed to pick a single point.
The following two years were slightly better as he finished 9th in 2002 and 2003. His best results were podium finishes at Sachsenring in 2002 but that still was far below his expectations.
WTCC was the next stop in Menu’s career
After relatively quiet 2004, during which he finished 4th in the GTS class in 24 Hours of Le Mans driving a Ferrari and 2nd in the 200 km of Buenos Aires in the seat of Opel, Alain was ready for the new quest in 2005 when he entered the World Touring Cars Championship.
Driving a Chevrolet Lacetti, he was 15th in his first year in the new championship, while in the next season he scored his first WTCC victory, at Donington Park, scoring Chevrolet's first-ever outright win in any of the FIA championships. At the end of the year, he was 15th in the Drivers’ championship.
The progress continued in 2007 when Menu moved up to the 6th position overall after he scored five wins, but in 2008 he again dropped a little, taking the 9th position.
Title contender with Chevrolet Cruze
In 2009, Chevrolet introduced a new model, Chevrolet Cruze and which was Alain's new car. The first season with a new car wasn’t so good even though he won two races but still he finished 10th overall. Alain’s form was more consistent in 2010 when he regularly collected points and also had one win before finishing 6th overall.
Chevrolet was a dominant force in the WTCC during this decade and Menu had a good opportunity to add another trophy to his collection. In 2011, as probably the most experienced driver in the series, he had a very good season but he had to settle for the 3rd place, losing to his teammate Yvan Muller and Rob Huff.
Menu’s last try to win the WTCC title was in 2012, again in the seat of Chevrolet Cruze. With six race wins, many podium finishes and a total of 401 points, he finished the season as a runner-up after a very tight battle with Muller who had 12 points more on his account.
Return to BTCC in 2014 with Team BMR
Menu missed out most of the 2013 season after being unable to find a new drive in the WTCC. He raced in two rounds of Porsche Supercup for the Swiss team Fach Auto Tech but without any success. It looked like Menu’s racing career is over but he wasn’t prepared to give up.
It was a small surprise when he returned to the BTCC in 2014. Driving a Team BMR’s Volkswagen CC, Menu struggled pretty much and had only two podiums, finishing 2nd at Rockingham and 3rd at Silverstone. That was his final season as a full-time driver but Alain stayed with a team as a drivers coach.
One of the greatest touring cars drivers ever
After that, Menu sporadically appeared in the selected races of the TCR International Series, driving Top Run Motorsport's Subaru Impreza or WestCoast Racing's Honda Civic.
Most recently, he worked with Hyundai on a development of Hyundai i30 N TCR race car, together with another touring car veteran Gabriele Tarquini. As a part of a development programme, Menu participated in two rounds of the 2017 TCR International Series with BRC Racing Team.
In 2005, Menu was voted the fourth greatest touring car driver of all time in the poll by the readers of Motorsport Magazine.