- Matt Neal maintains championship lead with home triumph
- Gordon Shedden tallies third podium of season in Honda 1-2
- Halfords Yuasa Racing extends advantage in title chase
Halfords Yuasa Racing duo Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden hit their Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rivals with the old one-two at Donington Park this weekend, enabling Honda to leave the Leicestershire circuit leading all three title tables.
After qualifying fourth (Shedden) and ninth (Neal) in a session that oscillated wildly between rain, sun, hail and even snow, the two drivers knew they would face an uphill struggle in the curtain-raiser, carrying significant success ballast from Brands Hatch two weeks earlier and on the less durable soft-compound tyres.
An astute exercise in damage limitation yielded 11th and 12th places at the finish, and with the ballast removed and the harder-compound Dunlop rubber bolted onto their Honda Civic Type Rs for race two, the experienced team-mates moved progressively through the pack. Displaying strong pace, they flashed past the chequered flag in fourth (Shedden) and sixth (Neal), with the Scot barely a whisker shy of the rostrum.
Both drivers then took full advantage of the race three reversed grid format, scything their way to the front of the field and overhauling the early leaders to speed to a commanding one-two finish, as Neal tallied his first victory of the season to prove that he remains every inch the class act in his 26th campaign in Britain’s premier motor sport series.
The result sees the three-time title-winner maintain his lead in the Drivers’ standings over defending champion Shedden, with both men having clinched three podiums to-date in 2016. Halfords Yuasa Racing has extended its advantage in the Teams’ classification, with Honda doing likewise in the Manufacturers’ chase.
“Being championship leaders and with the associated success ballast, we came into this weekend knowing we would need to play a longer-term game. Our aim was to save the best ‘til last – and that’s exactly what we did. We bagged the points in race one, and then race two set us up nicely for the last one, with the reversed grid and the right tyres on both cars. It was great to come away with a one-two finish, and being my home circuit makes it even sweeter. It felt as good as my first BTCC win here all those years ago – I’ll never get tired of that feeling. To leave still leading the championship is the perfect outcome – I’ll accept 75kg ballast going to the next round with both hands!”
“We knew we were going to have to take a bit of pain this weekend with so much ballast in both cars, and we decided to take that pain early on. It was always the plan that as Sunday progressed, we would get closer and closer to the front. That meant we were a little bit under the radar until the last race, but we kept fighting and plugging away and snatching points as and when they were available. It was very difficult in race one, but we kept our noses clean in race two to very nearly nick a late podium and then the car felt great in race three. We just had to bide our time until the soft tyres on the cars ahead faded, which we knew they would do. It was fantastic to end the weekend with a one-two finish.”