• Gordon Shedden tallies top five hat-trick at Croft to reclaim championship lead
  • Honda Yuasa Racing team-mate Matt Neal lacks luck but remains in the hunt
  • Team targets further progress over summer break in bid to maintain momentum 
Gordon Shedden takes a ten-point lead into the mid-season break in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after tallying his 100th podium finish in the series at Croft, as Honda sprinted further clear in the constructors’ standings.

After earning fourth place in race one behind the wheel of his Honda Yuasa Racing Civic Type R, the Scot claimed fifth in race two and third in race three – leading until lap 11, when his soft tyres began to fade and contact from Rob Collard unsettled his car and demoted him to second. Shedden also conceded ground to Andy Priaulx, but his seventh rostrum finish of the season nonetheless sees him enter the six-week pause ensconced atop the title table.

Team-mate Matt Neal took the chequered flag fifth in race one, but 11th was the best he could manage in the fiercely-contested field in the second outing. Ninth position – and fastest lap – on the more rapidly degrading soft rubber in the finale was still sufficient to preserve the three-time BTCC Champion’s third place in the points classification, well in touch in the chase for the coveted crown.

“I’m delighted,” enthused Shedden. “It’s so competitive that you are not going to win everywhere, but points make prizes and we scored three very solid results here on what we knew was going to be a tough weekend around a predominantly rear-wheel-drive circuit.

“We’ve got the Civic Type R on the podium now at every track this year, and we certainly put up a good fight in race three! I had a fantastic battle with Andy – he’s a world-class driver and we gave each other enough room. The car felt brilliant and perfectly hooked-up, although it was always going to be a tall order to hang in there on the soft tyres; I was thinking, ‘please just last a little longer!’

“The next six weeks will be very valuable, and we need to go out and do some testing to make sure we take another step forward for the second half of the season because nobody is going to be standing still – but it’s great to be leading the way.”

“We just didn’t have the luck we needed this weekend,” reflected Neal. “Qualifying was a good start in light of the weight we were carrying, although we had to put in an extra run on race tyres to make sure we secured the position.

“That obviously put another heat cycle through them, and Croft is a circuit that is renowned for being exceptionally hard on the tyres. That made the first race more difficult that it would otherwise have been, but fifth was still a pretty decent finish.

“The car felt better in race two, but it’s not easy to overtake around here and in race three I got up as far as seventh before the tyre performance fell away. Onwards and upwards, though; it’s still very close in the championship, and whilst I normally look forward to the summer break, I’m enjoying driving the Civic Type R so much that I just want the season to keep going right now!”