Neal currently sits on top of the points after nine races in his two-litre turbocharged Civic but he says running at very front will be a tough task because he has to carry an extra 45 kilogrammes for the first of three races in Cheshire because he is the pacesetter.
“The rules say that if you are leading the points, you have to have success ballast and that is going to be a real penalty around somewhere like Oulton Park,” says Neal. “It is a fast, flowing circuit with lots of undulations and plenty of points where you have to accelerate hard – which is where the success ballast is going to hold me back. Despite that, I love the track because it is a real challenge and you have to be very committed.”
Despite the weight handicap, Neal says the 2.26-mile track will also play to some of the Honda’s strengths. “One thing that we do have up our sleeve is that Oulton is about handling and we know that the Civic has a brilliant chassis,” adds Neal. “If we can exploit that and then maybe shed some of the success ballast later on then we will have a real shot at big points. I am looking to protect the advantage that I have in the standings and then reap the rewards in races two and three. I am expecting my main opposition to come from my team-mate ‘Flash’ Gordon Shedden and I will be trying to hang on to him.”
Flash comes into the fourth meeting of the year with only a small amount extra weight on his car and he will be able to exploit the hatchback to its maximum.
A win and a second place last time out at Thruxton has thrust the Fife Flier back into contention and he is in fifth place in the points table. His results this year have helped Honda to the top of the manufacturers’ standings and the Honda Racing Team is also leading the teams’ contest.
Like Neal, Flash rates his chances highly going into the meeting. “It will be wins that I am after,” said Shedden. “I am not that far away from second in the points behind Matt and the best way to achieve that is to win races at Oulton Park.
“I have traditionally gone well there and the Civic is a great car for getting around the sweeps and the dips at the track so I am going to the races in a very optimistic frame of mind. I only have nine kilogrammes of success ballast and that puts me in a good position to capitalise while the others are loaded up. There is lots of racing to be done and they have changes the rules again ahead of this meeting so I am expecting the competition to be strong but I am confident that we will be right in the mix as well.
The first race at Oulton Park takes place at 12.15pm, and all three of the races will be broadcast live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD.