Honda Yuasa Racing star Matt Neal heads to Snetterton this weekend hoping to maintain his lead in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Neal and his reigning champion team-mate ‘Flash’ Gordon Shedden were two of the top performers in the first half of the season in their Honda Civics. Now the title fight resumes on the Snetterton 300 circuit, the longest track on the BTCC calendar, where Honda Yuasa Racing completed a successful test last month.
Triple champion Neal was pleased with the test, but believes this weekend will prove tough. As championship leader he will carry 45kg of success ballast in qualifying and race one, and the Civics will still run at baseline turbo boost while most rivals have been allowed extra power under the BTCC’s equalisation system.
“The test went pretty well,” said Neal. “It was blindingly hot, but we did long runs and short runs, and tried a few things.
“Carrying the weight round Snetterton, with the boost situation, will make it an uphill struggle. I expect the MGs to be quick and Flash should be on their tail with only 18kg of ballast. Everyone could be up there – the BMW’s form over the last couple of rounds means it should be pretty monstrous.”
Nevertheless, the Snetterton 300 configuration, introduced for 2011, is a circuit Neal enjoys. “Since the changes I think it’s mega,” added Neal. “It needs commitment.
“It’s also a good track for overtaking. There are three corners – Palmer, Williams and Coram – you never feel you’ve got it right and that promotes mistakes. We can’t overtake people with the boost so we need them to make errors, and the 300 circuit is more challenging.”
Shedden currently lies fourth in the drivers’ standings after a mixed first half of 2013, but his pace has never been in doubt.
“I think the infield will suit the Civic, but it’ll be a tough weekend,” he said. “More than perhaps any other circuit Snetterton shows up the extra ballast.
“We could do with a good qualifying. One of these weekends I know I’ll have a ballistic meeting that’ll fire me back into the title fight. I’m on the fringes of it now – we’ve had no lack of speed, just a lack of the cards falling my way, but things usually even themselves out in touring cars.
“Snetterton is a great venue and is well supported by the fans. I don’t think the 300 layout is any better than the old circuit, but it has provided good racing over the last couple of years. It should be interesting.”
The Snetterton action gets under way at 09:25 on Saturday with free practice. Qualifying is at 15:20, and the first of three races on Sunday is scheduled for just after midday.