Honda Yuasa Racing will take the duel for the fiercely-contested Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship manufacturers’ title down to the Brands Hatch season finale following a challenging and hard-fought weekend at Silverstone.
Knowing that the ‘Home of British Motor Sport’ would likely not be their happiest hunting-ground of the campaign, Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal’s fears were confirmed in qualifying as they lined up an unaccustomed 17th and 18th respectively on the 31-strong grid, separated by a mere two hundredths-of-a-second.
Both men marked milestones in the opening encounter – Shedden’s 250th BTCC start and team-mate Neal’s 550th – and both similarly worked hard to make progress through the pack as they energetically got stuck into the fast-and-frenetic midfield scrap.
Shedden wound up 14th at the chequered flag, but after posting the fastest lap behind the wheel of his striking Honda Civic Tourer, a late drive-through penalty for Neal for transgressing track limits dropped the three-time champion to 21st in the final reckoning.
Race two again witnessed a feisty showing from the Honda duo, as Shedden found himself embroiled in a number of wheel-to-wheel battles en route to an 11th-place finish, with Neal not far behind in 13th.
‘Flash’ upheld his consistent points-scoring run in the day’s third and final outing, swiftly advancing to eighth position, which he would retain to the flag – in the midst of a multi-car fight over the bottom step of the rostrum. Neal was less than two seconds behind in 12th.
“It was a tough weekend, as expected,” reflected 2012 BTCC Champion Shedden, who remains third in the drivers’ standings. “Our pace in the races was definitely better, but this isn’t an easy track for overtaking, especially when the field is as closely-matched as it is this year.
“As ever, the handling of the Civic Tourer was spot-on all weekend and we tried our absolute hardest. We grafted away and fought from the second the red lights went out to the chequered flag.”
“We’ve always tended to endure a rough weekend at Silverstone,” echoed Neal, who lies seventh in the classification. “My car felt mint all day – really, really quick – and our pace in race one was very good, but gaining ground at Silverstone is never easy, no matter how quick you are.
“I’m already looking forward to getting stuck in at Brands Hatch, which should suit us far better – hopefully we can utilise the fantastic Honda chassis there and come away with a much stronger clutch of results.”
Heading into the season finale, Honda sits 28 points adrift of the top of the manufacturers’ table. Honda Yuasa Racing Technical Director Barry Plowman affirms that the full focus is now on signing off from the campaign on a considerably higher note.
“We always anticipated a tough weekend at Silverstone,” he acknowledged, “but qualifying was even tougher than we had expected, to be truthful. We fared a bit better in the races, but the trouble is that round here, there’s just nowhere to go – Gordon had good pace in race three, but he was trapped in the train fighting over third place and there was no way past.
“We can do the lap times when we’re in clean air, as Matt proved with the fastest lap in race one and Gordon with the second-fastest lap in both races two and three. We now look forward to really exploiting that pace at Brands Hatch – which will hopefully offer a much brighter end to the season.”