After maintaining his championship lead following a consistent weekend at Knockhill, Matt Neal admitted that Colin Turkington could be the danger man he will be looking over his shoulder for with three rounds still remaining.
The three-time BTCC champion hung onto a slender six-point lead in the championship after a solid, if not unspectacular weekend in Scotland, a second place in race three behind main title rival Andrew Jordan the highlight as he fought with maximum success ballast throughout Saturday.
Neal was relieved to come out of the weekend with a strong haul of points thanks to a seventh, fifth and second place set of finishes during Sunday’s encounters, telling btcc.net: “I’d had a pretty tough weekend so it was a relief to see the podium again – this championship could come down to the odd point.
“I think that every point you get is vital whether it’s a fifth place, a seventh or the podium that we picked up in race three. You’ve just got to grab what you can because the competition is pretty tough and it’s not easy out there.”
Although Jordan remains Neal’s biggest threat after his fourth win of the season moved the Pirtek Racing man closer to his Yuasa Honda Civic rival, Neal is wary of the threat from eBay Motors‘ Turkington lying fourth in the standings and 30 points adrift, after the Irishman secured two strong wins in Fife.
“I said before this weekend that Turkington could be the one to watch and we’d all be foolish to discount Plato too, but it’s great to have three Civics in the top three of the championship.”
The scenario after race two saw the top four drivers separated by just 13 points after Turkington and Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden made up ground with some strong results, but an exclusion for Turkington in race three for overboosting saw the Irishman drop to 30 back of Neal with three rounds to go.
Shedden looked poised to put himself firmly on Neal’s tail as he defends his BTCC crown thanks to two podium finishes, but a dramatic engine blow-up led to a fiery exit for the Scot in race three, an unexpected and disappointing end for the local man that sees him enter Rockingham 27 points behind his team-mate.
“That’s the first engine I’ve ever had blow in touring cars so I can’t complain too much”, said a magnanimous Shedden. “It doesn’t help with the points of course as it’s all well and good having two good results but you need to convert results in all three races.
“There’s no room for error but I’ve kept chipping away since Thruxton, so it’s tough to take when you get within ten points of the championship and then fall away again with this. There’s still a lot of races to go though so we’ll give it absolutely everything until the end of the season.”