Honda Yuasa Racing stars Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden bounced back from a difficult start to the opening round of the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship by taking a one-two in the third race at Brands Hatch.
Reigning champion Shedden started well and qualified second to the Pirtek Civic of Andrew Jordan, with Neal fourth, underlining the speed of the revised NGTC Hondas. But race day did not start so well.
Shedden had a big slide at Paddock at the start of race one, dropping places, while Neal was hit hard by a rival as he backed off to avoid the incident.
As Neal fought with his damaged Civic in fourth, Shedden started a recovery drive. That ended when Neal was forced wide by Sam Tordoff at Clearways and accidentally almost hit Shedden as he tried to get back on line.
Shedden picked up grass in the front of his Civic in the incident, which caused overheating, and both cars eventually had to pit for repairs. That meant no points in race one.
Race two looked better, with Shedden storming from row 10 to finish third and Neal crossing the line fifth. But then Shedden’s bad Brands luck struck again, his Civic failing the ride height test and causing his disqualification.
It all came good in the final event. Neal led for much of the distance, while Shedden again charged through from the back to complete a one-two as the duo finished in formation. Neal’s win also made him the first driver to take a BTCC victory on the series’ new soft Dunlop tyre.
“After a rough weekend through no fault of our own doing, it’s great to finish with a one-two and on a high for the team,” he said.
“If you’re going to have one win it’s good to have it at the end of the day to make the journey home shorter.”
Shedden was surprised with how fast he was throughout race three. “Starting from the back on the soft tyre we thought we’d struggle,” he admitted. “Compared to everyone else though we seemed quite strong.
“We’ve showed the pace is in the car. Maybe we didn’t optimise it in all weather conditions – like the snow in qualifying! But hopefully we can push and improve for the next round at Donington Park.”
Triple champion Neal believes this BTCC season will be tough, but is confident he has the tools to do the job at Honda Yuasa Racing.
“This weekend shows the opposition will be no pushover this year,” he added. “I foresee a tough season, but I think I’m in the best team in the best car.”