A win and a podium position in the fourth meeting of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park on Sunday has hauled Gordon Shedden on to the boot lid of his Honda Racing Team Civic team-mate Matt Neal at the top of the chase for this season’s drivers’ title.
Shedden stormed to victory in the opening race of the weekend in Cheshire after an inspired tyre choice in tricky conditions. His blend of slick rubber and treaded racing Dunlops was the key to his win.
In race two, Shedden was fighting for another win when he and Neal collided at the last corner after what Neal described as a “horrible mistake” which ran them both off the road. In the final encounter they both bounced back with Shedden taking second place and Matt in fourth to consolidate the teams’ grip on the drivers’ standings, the team points and the manufacturers’ chase.
Looking back on the weekend, Shedden said that the pace the Civic had shown in the tricky conditions meant it was uncatchable for rivals. “It was raining on and off, and in those conditions you need a great chassis,” explains the Scot. “The fact we were able to run at the front in both races proves that we have been working on all the right areas when it comes to traction and grip.”
Former champion Neal apologised to Shedden after their race two contact and ‘Flash’ Gordon said the incident proved how hard the two drivers were pushing. “After winning race one we were determined to get the most out of race two that we could. It was unfortunate that we made contact but these things happen in racing,” said the Fife Flier. “The best way to respond was to get back on to the podium in the third race and that was what we did.”
The treacherous conditions prompted a difficult tyre choice for the entire field at the start of the opening race and Neal opted for wet weather tyres all round. However, as the track dried up he found that the grip went away in his treaded rubber and he could only manage eighth position. Then came the race two incident with Flash.
“I am annoyed with myself for letting it happen,” he said. “I am sorry for Flash that I crashed into him. I was looking down the inside and it was wetter on the track than I thought. I locked up the brakes and went into him. I am sorry for him and for the team because we would have had a one-two finish.”
Despite that hiccup, Neal charged from 19th on the grid to fourth in the final dry race of the day and that was enough to ensure he left Oulton Park still in the lead of the points standings. He is two points in front of Shedden.
“Every cloud has a silver lining,” says Neal. “It was hard to find a positive after race two but when the car was free of success ballast it was really hooked up in race three. We have been working so hard on the chassis and the engine and everything trying to make it faster and it showed it’s been worth it today. I hold my hands up and even though I did my best to drop the ball in race two we are still in the in the fight, which is great as we are getting to the halfway stage of the season.”
The next rounds of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship take place at Croft in North Yorkshire on June 18/19.