Honda Yuasa Racing stars Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden head to Rockingham this weekend aiming to strengthen their title challenges as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship enters its final phase.
There are just three rounds left to go, including Rockingham, and triple champion Neal leads the drivers’ title with 293 points in his Honda Civic. Reigning champion Shedden is third with 266 points, behind the Pirtek Racing Civic of Andrew Jordan.
Neal is expecting a close fight this weekend, particularly from the works MGs and WSR BMWs. “I’ve just got to get the points,” said Neal.
“When it was very wet it suited us last year, but in the dry the MG was very quick. I think the BMWs will be fast too, with the rear-wheel-drive in the traction areas.
“I like the circuit – it’s challenging. It’s got a technical aspect to it, which I like.”
Neal also believes that MG team leader Jason Plato could still be a threat in the championship fight, despite being 54 points behind the Honda Yuasa racer.
“Never discount Jason,” added Neal. “I wouldn’t like to have his deficit, but with the [series turbo] boost [equalisation] situation, he’ll be strong at Rockingham and Silverstone. He could get four wins in the next six races and that would put him right back in it.”
Shedden has suffered from some bad luck this season, but scored two Rockingham wins on his way to the BTCC title last year. He is hoping for a big points haul to put him right back in the fight at the top.
“If it’s going to go my way the cards need to start falling my way soon, they haven’t so far,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with going fast, I just have a problem getting the results!”
Shedden also believes rain would help him this weekend, the Civic having already proved its superiority in the wet on a number of occasions in 2012.
“Rockingham is going to be weather-dependent,” he added. “We were struggling with the pace in the dry last year and then it came to us in the wet.
“The circuit has some good corners but also the slow hairpin and chicane with long straights afterwards. It’s swings and roundabouts.
“I certainly wouldn’t mind inclement weather – we’ve not had much rain this season.”
The Rockingham action gets under way at 09:30 on Saturday with free practice. Qualifying is at 15:40, and the first of three races on Sunday is scheduled for around 11:30.
As well as heading to Northamptonshire or watching ITV4’s live BTCC TV coverage, fans can also follow Honda Yuasa Racing’s exploits on Facebook and Twitter for news and race results as the action happens www.facebook.com/HondaYuasaRacing and www.twitter.com/hondaracingbtcc. Also be sure to visit http://www.honda.co.uk/racing/btcc/raceresults/.