• Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal eager to conclude campaign in fine form
• Popular Brands Hatch GP circuit tipped to showcase Honda Civic Tourer’s strengths
• Manufacturers’ duel goes down to the wire in season finale
Honda Yuasa Racing duo Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal are relishing the prospect of a captivating conclusion to the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship campaign around Brands Hatch’s legendary GP circuit next weekend (11/12 October).
Having tallied four top ten finishes between them on difficult weekends at Northants venues Rockingham and Silverstone, Shedden and Neal are infinitely more optimistic about their chances of success at Brands Hatch, whose characteristics should play significantly more to the strengths of the striking Honda Civic Tourer.
Indeed, Shedden is the most recent winner around the celebrated GP layout – one that has in years gone-by been conquered by the likes of Nigel Mansell, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and the late Jack Brabham and Jim Clark – and the 2012 BTCC Champion is palpably fired-up for the fight.
“The GP circuit is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the calendar,” the Scot affirmed. “It’s a fantastic place to race, and it should suit our car considerably better than Silverstone did. Hopefully we can have a really good crack at it.
“It’s a real old school circuit, with lots of undulation and quick corners, and that makes it a very exciting challenge. It’s always going to be tough in the BTCC, so we need to really optimise what we’ve got, exploit the Civic Tourer’s excellent handling qualities and hopefully get up somewhere near the sharp end. If we can do that, then hopefully we can finish this season on a high.”
Team-mate Neal has three times ascended the top step of the rostrum at Brands’ GP circuit, and like Shedden, the triple BTCC Champion is very much a fan of the 2.4-mile layout.
“Brands Hatch has always been a pretty happy hunting-ground for me – be that on the Indy loop or full GP circuit,” he mused. “In fact, both ‘Flash’ and I have traditionally achieved good results there, and there’s a real stadium atmosphere to the place. It’s fantastic for both the crowd and for us as drivers, because we can see the fans rising to their feet when the racing gets underway. It’s exhilarating.
“It’s obviously a former F1 circuit and one of the old classics on the calendar. It requires some proper commitment out the back of the lap through Hawthorn and Westfield, and the Civic Tourer should respond well to the track’s technical demands. It would be nice to have a strong end to the season with some positive results and podiums.”
With the manufacturers’ title still up for grabs, Honda Yuasa Racing Technical Director Barry Plowman agreed that a clutch of solid points-scoring finishes will be pivotal – but he is confident that the team will be up to the mark.
“Brands Hatch is a great place to conclude the campaign, with superb racing, passionate fans and a festival atmosphere,” he remarked. “The GP circuit is a fabulous track and one that should really enable the Civic Tourer to showcase its capabilities.
“We know we are playing catch-up in the manufacturers’ battle, but everybody in the team is ready to attack the weekend with 100 per cent effort and determination – and at the end of the day, there is nothing we like more than a fight!”
All the action will be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4 on Sunday, 12 October. The three BTCC races get underway at 11:30, 14:20 and 17:10.