• Gordon Shedden resumes title challenge in world’s toughest tin-top series
• Matt Neal ready to support team-mate’s bid for glory
• Honda Yuasa Racing keen to hunt down teams’ and manufacturers’ spoils
Honda Yuasa Racing duo Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal are fired-up to attack the second half of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship when the world’s most fiercely-contested tin-top series revs back into life at Snetterton next weekend (2-3 August).
Shedden will arrive at Snetterton sitting just seven points adrift of the championship lead following a supremely consistent opening half to the campaign that yielded a brace of victories.
The Scot has been a prolific winner in the past at Snetterton, too – tallying four triumphs there, the most recent of which last year – and he admits that he is more than ready to climb back into the cockpit of his potent Honda Civic Tourer.
“It’s been a long time since Croft,” reflected the 2012 BTCC Champion, “so it will be good to get back into it at Snetterton and really get down to the serious end of the championship. I feel relaxed and refreshed after the summer break and am definitely ready to go again.
“I’ve got happy memories of Snetterton. The ‘300’ layout is the longest circuit we go to on the BTCC calendar, and it has a good mix of corners and hard-braking zones, which should play to our car’s strengths.
“We’re making progress with the Civic Tourer all the time, and whilst the last couple of circuits perhaps better suited some of our rivals, we’re optimistic about being able to redress the balance next weekend.”
Neal has similarly tasted victory champagne at Snetterton in the past, in 2003 and 2006. Although recent years have been less kind to him in Norfolk, he is a self-confessed fan of the ‘300’ circuit and eager to bounce back from a luckless run at Oulton Park and Croft as he shifts his attentions towards supporting his team-mate’s chase for the crown.
“I always look forward to the summer break and the chance to recharge my batteries a bit, but by the same token, I always look forward to the resumption of racing, too!” explained the three-time BTCC title-winner, who will be partnered by Shedden in a 1963 Lotus Cortina at this weekend’s Silverstone Classic.
“I’ve had a couple of rough meetings recently, but keeping my glass half-full, that does mean I’ll be light going into qualifying at Snetterton, which will definitely be an advantage. The last couple of years there have seen some pretty frenetic racing, but I think we stand as good a chance as anybody else.
“I’m a bit of an outsider for the title now, so my approach going forwards needs to be slightly different – especially with ‘Flash’ still right in contention. The focus will be on supporting his championship challenge and scoring strong points towards the teams’ and manufacturers’ standings.”
Honda sits poised to pounce in second position in both of those tables, and Honda Yuasa Racing Team Manager Peter Crolla explains that all members of the squad have taken the opportunity to regroup as the season speeds into its second half.
“Everybody in the team has tried to take a little bit of a holiday over the last few weeks, the drivers included,” he revealed. “It’s important to work hard, of course, but just as important to make sure the team is on top form when we come back from the summer break.
“We’re pretty happy with the balance and pace of the Civic Tourer, so we didn’t feel the need to test – but that’s not to say the workshop has been quiet, far from it! The cars have undergone extensive rebuilds during the break so that they return to the track well-serviced and in A-1 condition.
“We’re confident of enjoying a strong weekend at Snetterton. Both drivers have performed well there in the past, and I think the ‘300’ layout should play into the Civic Tourer’s hands – its long, fast sections are just the kind of areas where this car truly excels.”
All the action will be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4 on Sunday, 3 August. The three BTCC races get underway at 12:00, 14:35 and 16:55.