Honda Yuasa Racing stars Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden head to Donington Park this weekend expecting to challenge for victories in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Neal led a Honda Civic one-two in the third race at Brands Hatch, the opening BTCC meeting of 2013, and believes the NGTC machine will again be competitive at Donington.
“Last year, apart from Silverstone, we were pretty competitive everywhere,” said the triple BTCC champion.
“We’ll be running with very little success ballast [9kg] and hopefully we should be somewhere in the mix.”
Neal will make his 500th BTCC start this weekend and Donington holds many memories for him, including his first win in the series, in 1999.
“I try not to think about the number!” added Neal, who will race a new chassis at Donington after his original one was badly damaged with contact from a rival at Brands. “But it’s my local circuit and it’s where I first saw touring cars in the flesh, as a teenager in the 1980s.
“I’ve had some tough races there – brake failure at the bottom of the Cranar Curves in 1993 – but there have been some great moments too, like racing Nigel Mansell in the TOCA shootout.”
Reigning champion Shedden was fast but unlucky at Brands and sits in ninth in the points table, four spots behind Neal. He did, however, score two wins and a second at Donington last season, and is confident he’ll be at the sharp end this year.
“Brands Indy has been particularly unkind to me over the years, but we head to Donington with no ballast and we’ve gone well there in recent seasons,” said the 34-year-old.
“In between the problems at Brands we were running fast and the car looked good on the [BTCC’s new] soft tyres, which adds an extra bit of strategy.
“Other people will have made progress, but we’re happy with the car we’ve got. I’ll be disappointed if we’re not in the thick of it.
Shedden is also a fan of the Leicestershire circuit. “I love it – Donington is one of my favourites,” he added. “Donington, Knockhill, Oulton Park and Brands GP are old-school circuits with undulations and I enjoy them.”
The Donington action gets under way at 10:00 on Saturday with free practice. Qualifying is at 15:40, and the first of three races on Sunday is scheduled for 11:37.