- Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal well-placed as the BTCC heads north
- Former champions boast 11 victories between them at Oulton Park
- Honda Yuasa Racing Civic Type R bidding to extend superb 2015 run
Often described as a ‘Mini-Nürburgring’ after the legendary German circuit’s phenomenal Nordschleife layout, Oulton is a firm favourite on the annual BTCC calendar.
Between them, Shedden and Neal have triumphed around the undulating Cheshire venue on an impressive 11 occasions – five victories for the former and six for the latter. They return this year sitting respectively first and third in the title standings – separated by just 11 points – following a strong weekend at Thruxton that preserved the new Civic Type R’s record of winning at every track it has visited thus far.
The first of Shedden’s Oulton successes came on his BTCC debut at the circuit back in 2006, behind the wheel of an Integra Type R, and the Scot is palpably pumped up to further add to his burgeoning silverware collection nine years on.
Neal, meanwhile, endured a rough ride in Cheshire 12 months ago, but with less success ballast now than he had heading into the most recent two outings at Donington Park and Thruxton, he similarly fancies his chances of maintaining his championship challenge.
“It was great to come away from Thruxton with the results that we did, but it’s going to be tough to begin with at Oulton by virtue of the nature of the circuit. Leading the championship is a bit of a double-edged sword in that respect! It’s very much a stop-start layout, which is not an ideal match for carrying 75kg of ballast – it will be the hardest qualifying session to-date for the championship leader and we’ll need to be absolutely spot-on to maximise our potential as it’s notoriously difficult to overtake there. That said, I’d rather have the points already banked than have to fight for them and we’ll just have to try to make up ground as the weekend goes on. Everybody loves Oulton Park – there’s a cracking crowd, a fantastic festival atmosphere and we always look forward to going there, and this year will be no different.”
“It’ll definitely be beneficial having a bit less ballast in the car, but I still think all the top guys in the championship will have a tough time in qualifying as there are several sections of the lap where you’re in first or second gear and then drag right the way up to sixth. That means carrying extra weight will be more of a handicap than it has been previously this season. Oulton is a high-commitment circuit, and if you put a foot wrong you will end up with a bent car. Every track we go to this year is a completely new scenario because we haven’t tested there with the same kind of weight on-board, but if we can qualify somewhere inside the top six or eight and then move forward from there, I think that would be a fairly realistic objective. We never underestimate the opposition, but the Civic Type R is working well, we’re in the hunt and I’m confident in our abilities.”