• Hat-trick of rostrum finishes for Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden
  • Cheshire circuit another happy hunting ground for Civic Type R
  • Honda moves 28 points clear in manufacturers’ title chase
Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal strengthened their title credentials as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship stopped off at Oulton Park, with a trio of podium finishes enabling Honda to extend its advantage in the manufacturers’ standings.

After missing out on pole position by a scant hundredth of a second, Neal produced an excellent run in the opening encounter to seal the runner-up spoils, as team-mate Shedden defied maximum ballast and soft tyres to secure sixth following a masterclass in defensive driving.

From the front row of the grid in race two, the Scot applied the pressure on pole-sitter Jason Plato throughout, darting out of his rival’s slipstream as the chequered flag beckoned to flash across the finish line less than a tenth of a second in arrears. Neal, meanwhile, wound up a fine fourth despite the disadvantage of 66kg success ballast and soft tyres.

The three-time BTCC Champion subsequently led the final outing until half-distance, when oil on the track delayed him and dropped him to third. Although he valiantly fought back, the difficulty of overtaking at Oulton meant it was always going to be a tall order to regain the lost ground, and he was chased home by Shedden in a Honda Yuasa Racing three-four finish.

“I’ve got to be happy with a second, third and fourth, but I don’t like giving away wins,” reflected Neal, who maintained third place in the drivers’ classification, just eight points away from the top of the table. “I was managing the gap and really thought we had it in the bag – everything was under control and then the rear of the car stepped out on lap nine.

“Initially I thought it was a puncture, but it turned out that it was oil on the track that you couldn’t see because of the shadows beneath the trees, and I was the first on the scene. After I figured out what it was, I got my head back down, but by that point the horse had bolted. That was obviously frustrating, but ‘Flash’ and I came away with three solid finishes apiece so it’s onwards and upwards.

“The Civic Type R is working great and we’re learning more about it all the time. I’m looking forward to Croft next; I love that circuit and I love driving this car. It’s an awesome piece of kit that makes me excited going into every race meeting.”

“It was a solid weekend,” concurred Shedden, one spot above Neal in the title chase and only three points adrift of the leader. “It’s fair to say we outperformed our expectations in qualifying given the ballast we were carrying, and with the soft tyres in race one, I had to drive fairly defensively – although this is always a difficult circuit to overtake around.

“Race two was pretty uneventful, and Jason knows what he is doing round here – as long as you place your car in the right part of the track, it’s nigh-on impossible for the driver behind to get past. He would have had to make a mistake for me to gain the position, so I just tried to put him under as much pressure as possible.

“We didn’t get the balance of the car exactly how I wanted it this weekend, but it’s important to put points on the board in situations like this – they could prove very valuable come season’s end.”