Matt Neal is placing his hopes of a winning British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) weekend at Silverstone firmly in the hands of his Honda Racing Team and the developments they have made to the Honda Civic since the previous round at Snetterton.
Neal lost his championship lead to Jason Plato at the three rounds at the Norfolk track but is confident the races on the Silverstone National Circuit will see he and his Honda teammate Gordon Shedden gain ground on both Plato and the Team Aon Ford Focuses, who are again expected to be the dominant force throughout the weekend.
“Our engine tuner Neil Brown has looked closely at the engine and we have managed to extract even more power from it which will be an advantage for us,” said Neal. “We think we have found a few more horsepower. We won't know exactly how much it will push us forward until we get on to the circuit for the free practice on Saturday but I hope it will help us rein the others in.”
“The LPG Ford Focuses in the championship will be very strong around Silverstone with its long straights and they are going to present a hard challenge for everyone, not just the Honda Racing Team. We need to grab a healthy points haul at Silverstone, keep ourselves in the title fight but I am going there with less success ballast than I have had in previous meetings and that will be a bonus. Once Silverstone is finished, we can then look forward to the circuits coming up which will be more suited to our Civic.”
Shedden, who won the final race Snetterton is only four points behind his veteran teammate – and so still in title contention himself.
“[The Snetterton win] has kept me in the hunt and I need a similar performance at Silverstone this weekend,” said the Scot. “Silverstone is a circuit that is going to be tough for us so I need to look at banking as many points as possible and I need to get to the end of all three rounds. If I can maximise the reversed grid race again, like I did at Snetterton, it could present us with the best opportunity to score a lot. It's a delicate stage of the season and we need to keep the pressure on.”
The weekend's on-track activity also includes a Honda Type R Lap of Honour to commemorate the manufacturer's high performance cars as the Civic Type R prepares to bow out of production due to emission regulations. Over 40 members of one of the UK's biggest Honda owner's clubs will take part in the lap, which is scheduled for 1pm on Sunday.
Neal, Shedden and the rest of the Honda Racing Team hope it isn't the only celebration of Honda performance on the day.