Current championship leader Matt Neal has revealed he fear for his title hopes in the second half of the British Touring Car season, describing his turbocharged Honda Civic as “a wrung sponge” ahead of this weekend's three race at Snetterton.
Neal, already a double champion brings a nine point lead in the weekend over Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson, but after two pole positions and five win in the first half of the season Neal is prepared for a fight right up to the Silverstone finale.
“The Honda is a 'wrung sponge', there's no more to come out of it,” said Neal. “I'm always realistic about what other people should be achieving with what they've got and, given what they have got on paper, they should have been doing better and giving us a much tougher time of it so far.”
“There have been some major concerns inside the car. Brands Hatch, Donington, Thruxton – you name it, I've been hearing some strange noises from the tyres and at Thruxton I was getting a massive vibration through the steering.”
“But the beauty about the Civic is its consistency at every circuit we've been to. All-round it's a great car, so it's going to be a case of keeping our heads down, finishing races and seeing where we are at the end. There is going to be an element of luck involved.”
Neal's closest challenger is three time winner in 2011 Jackson, and while Honda's development has reached a peak Jackson's Airwaves Racing squad is looking for more pace this weekend after using the summer break to get more from its Ford Focus and Mountune engine combination.
“We're in the title fight and it's taken a lot of hard work to get there,” said Jackson. “We have had a productive mid-season break and hopefully we can hit the ground with more pace at Snetterton. I feel we are in a strong position just nine points behind Honda, which is good, but there will be a lot of desperate dives from teams out there.”
“We know the opposition, we know the Honda is very quick and I think you are going to see a completely different story. I think Chevrolet are going to be opening the hatch, which will make it an interesting second half of the season.”
Behind Jackson in the points lies Neal's Honda Racing Team teammate Gordon Shedden, with Andrew Jordan, early points leader James Nash and defending champion Jason Plato all within 40 points – a margin that could evaporate should the leaders suffer a poor weekend at Snetterton.