- Halfords Yuasa Racing unrewarded for valiant Yorkshire effort
- Matt Neal keeps title tilt on-track with trio of points finishes
- Gordon Shedden’s wet-weather tyre gamble fails to pay off
Halfords Yuasa Racing endured a difficult weekend as the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) travelled north-east to Croft, with both Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden fighting hard for scant reward.
Renowned as a circuit that favours rear wheel-drive machinery, Croft was always going to represent a challenge for the front wheel-drive Honda Civic Type R, but even allowing for that, Neal and Shedden were disappointed to line up 15th and 17th on the 32-strong grid for the opening encounter.
Neal moved through the field in race one to take the chequered flag 12th, before evincing a solid turn-of-speed in race two as he homed in on the multi-car scrap over fifth until his tyres faded in the closing stages, leaving him tenth. The three-time champion concluded his weekend with an 11th-place finish in a rain-plagued finale to leave Croft sitting third in the Drivers’ table, still firmly in the title fight.
Shedden lapped at a similar pace in races one and two as he tallied points-paying finishes in 15th and 13th – the former his 300th BTCC start – before taking a gamble on slick rubber in race three. It was an audacious strategy that unfortunately didn’t pay off and the Scot was ultimately forced to pit to change over to wets, seeing him slip to ninth in the Drivers’ standings as Honda and Halfords Yuasa Racing maintained second spot in the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ classifications.
“It’s been a tough weekend and one I won’t be sorry to see the back of! We knew the rear wheel-drive cars would have an advantage at Croft, but we thought we would still be somewhere in or around the top six and that obviously wasn’t the case. In the circumstances, we got pretty much the maximum we could out of the car. I drove my heart out and race two was quite enjoyable; because we were struggling for straight-line speed, I had to work the tyres quite hard and that halted our progress in the closing stages. On the positive side, both cars came back in one piece when quite a few didn’t and we can now go away and regroup over the summer break. Believe me, we won’t be rolling over by any means!”
“We’ve not been on the pace all weekend which was certainly a surprise, because the Civic Type R is a very good package and was strong round here last year. Yes, Croft is traditionally a rear wheel-drive circuit, but other front wheel-drive cars did ok so I don’t subscribe to that excuse. In race three, knowing we couldn’t compete on outright pace, we decided to roll the dice because from where we were starting, we had nothing to lose. The bottom line is we weren’t good enough and there are clearly some elements missing that we need to put our finger on, but we have a decent break now that we will use to reassess, figure everything out and come up with an action plan for the second half of the season.”