BTCC 2011 Team-By-Team Preview: Honda Racing Team

No.2 Matt Neal – No.52 Gordon Shedden
Honda Civic
S2000 chassis, NGTC engine

The first part of an intriguing battle at the front of the grid – you simply don't expect the Hondas to be anywhere else.

They are also, almost unquestionably, the biggest team to pick up the NGTC engine this season after running a normally aspirated engine the season before. Of course the switch opens the door to more power, but as Matt Neal says (see below) just as many new problems to solve follow it.

Weight distribution, managing the heat – Neal speaks of the turbo becoming transparent, beyond white hot – and adapting driving styles all become new issues. The double champion says his “last-of-the-late-brakers” approach has had to change in response of the needs of the new engine.

Though, an entirely new Matt Neal is highly unlikely to start the 2011 it's the sort of issues that all the NGTC converts will be fighting against in the early weekends.

If the team can get the car working well early expect both Shedden and Neal to be back in the title first when the series rolls into Silverstone for the finale, the Scot having made himself a theoretical title contender after taking his 2010 challenge as far as anyone.

Matt Neal On….The troubles with turbos
It's harder to stop the car but then it's harder on the brakes too because you haven't got the engine braking. Them you've got the extra weight of the engine – the new engine is 30kgs heavier and then that weight so you've got to try and loose the weight and that weight is over the front end so your weight distribution's all gone to pot so there is a multitude of things and then you've got the heat issue – it's only a small engine bay in there and that turbos running 1000°C and that's only six inches away from the cylinder head which is aluminium and that melts at 600 so and it's only 12 inches away from my feet.”

Gordon Shedden On….2010
I was just unlucky at Brands last year, Jason was a worth winner but my chance fell short, I broke a driveshaft on the warm-up lap of race two and that was that. Every season's full of ifs and buts, but we know we're capable of winning as a team and that's what we have to produce this year.”

Verdict: A pair of title challengers who will lead the NGTC charge.