Oulton Park pole-sitter Matt Neal says Honda have the tyre performance in race trim to challenge the rear-wheel drive BMW of fellow front starter Andrew Jordan in Sunday’s opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race.
The triple BTCC champion backed up his Thruxton pole position by repeating the feat at the Cheshire circuit on Saturday, pipping West Surrey Racing‘s Jordan by 0.126s in a session interrupted by a late red flag.
Neal had also topped the day’s second free practice session held in more torrential conditions, but saved a ‘committed’ lap for qualifying that proved enough for pole position.
“They’re like buses”, Neal told The Checkered Flag on achieving back-to-back poles for the first time since Donington 2011.
“It’s been nice bragging rights to do it in the rain and the dry too, but hopefully that’s not just for tonight. I didn’t leave a lot on the table either.
“It was a committed lap. We came in and then after that we didn’t want to have another go, because everything was working perfectly and it was on the line. We went out after the red flag and basically shadowed Andy [Jordan].
“He went purple in the second sector so I stayed on it after that moment. I knew we were both in the hunt, then when he went slower in the third sector I bailed and settled for what I had.”
The battle between the pair is one that Neal expects to be closely-fought, although he has his qualms over the run to the first corner against the fast-starting BMW 125i M-Sport of rival, Jordan.
On the Civic’s race pace against the traditionally quick RWD BMW, Neal added “it’s alright; the tyres on the RWD cars obviously work well here with the tight hairpins, but the Type-R has always been good on its tyres.
“If I can stay in front of [Jordan] – which I very much doubt it – at the start, then I’ll be feeling pretty confident. That’s going to be a hard race, but the start is so important.”
Neal sits seventh in the championship, 58 points adrift of series leader Tom Ingram heading into Sunday’s races.
Photo: BTCC Media