• Gordon Shedden tops the table as the BTCC speeds into Donington Park
  • Team-mate Matt Neal eager to make up ground by starring on home soil
  • Halfords Yuasa Racing returns to scene of 1-2 finish with Honda Civic Type R

Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Gordon Shedden will travel to Donington Park next weekend (15/16 April) as the man to beat in the chase for the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship crown, as team-mate Matt Neal seeks to take full advantage of home support.

Defending champion Shedden proved that he is still very much the current BTCC benchmark in the Brands Hatch Indy curtain-raiser last weekend by grabbing a victory and runner-up finish behind the wheel of his Honda Civic Type R to secure an early six-point lead in the Drivers’ standings.

Fellow three-time title-winner Neal was less fortunate in Kent, with a race one collision prompting a fightback through the order, but an excellent fourth-place finish in race three hinted at his potential – and he is hopeful of replicating last year’s result at his local circuit, when he and Shedden scythed their way to a one-two finish in the weekend finale.

Gordon Shedden:
“The championship lead obviously comes with its own challenge in the form of a 75kg handicap going into qualifying, but it’s clear that the advantage is going to ebb-and-flow throughout the season – and as I’ve always said, I’ll take points in the bag every day of the week and then deal with the rest of it later. We saw at Brands Hatch how close it is in qualifying and how competitive the BTCC is going to be this year, so there’s no question that Donington will be tough for me on Saturday and early doors Sunday with so many fast, light cars in the field – just look at Matt, who suffered last time out but will be back firing on all cylinders at his home circuit – but that’s just the price you pay for having a strong previous weekend. I’ll need to be absolutely on top of my game from the outset, but on the positive side, the Civic Type R was mega with all the weight on-board in race two at Brands, and to finish seventh in race three on maximum ballast and the soft tyres was almost as good as a win, so hopefully we can minimise the damage in qualifying and race one and then go from there. The goal is to leave still leading the championship – although quite how I do that, I haven’t figured out yet!”

Matt Neal:
“I came away from Brands Hatch feeling positive; of course I was disappointed by the overall result, but I was dead chuffed with the way I was able to battle back through in races two and three and the Civic Type R felt great. One thing that is very clear from Brands is that the field is of an immensely high calibre this year and you really do have to fight for every single position. It’s still very early days in the season so to be a bit further back in the standings at this stage isn’t the end of the world by a long chalk, and it means I’ll be light going to Donington. I need to make the most of that by qualifying on the front two rows of the grid and bringing away a big bagful of points. It’s always great to race at my local track and I have a lot of special memories there, going right back to my very first BTCC win in 1999. They’ve resurfaced some of the circuit this year and it will be the first time we will have run on the harder-compound Dunlop tyres in 2017, so that will be a new challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it – and to celebrating my first win of the year on home turf!”

Drivers’ Standings

1. Gordon Shedden 48 points
2. Tom Ingram 42 points
3. Andrew Jordan 41 points
4. Adam Morgan 39 points
5. Rob Collard 36 points
6. Tom Chilton 29 points
11. Matt Neal 18 points

Manufacturers’ Standings

1. BMW 84 points
2. Honda 75 points
3. Vauxhall 72 points
4. MG 55 points
5. Subaru 30 points

Teams’ Standings

1. Halfords Yuasa Racing 64 points
2. Team BMW 60 points
3. Speedworks Motorsport 40 points
4. BMW Pirtek Racing 40 points
5. Ciceley Motorsport 39 points
6. Power Maxed Racing 32 points