Matt Neal finally broke his win duck of over a year in the seventh Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship meeting of 2014 at Knockhill, as Honda moved back ahead of MG in the manufacturers’ championship.
The triple BTCC champion’s race one success finally halted a 33-race drought since his last visit to the podium’s top step at Croft last season, evading the chaotic scenes that took place around him on more than one occasion before relieving pole-sitter Sam Tordoff of the race lead on lap 19, slipping inside the Triple Eight MG as they headed into the Fife circuit’s Clark right-hander.
A race two jump start put a blot on the weekend for the Honda man who added finishes of 14th and 11th later that Sunday, but Neal still declared the weekend as one of his best of the current season in terms of performance.
“It was certainly my best weekend for quite some time!” commented Neal, who added that the softer tyre choice he applied for race one helped his cause towards victory.
“The softer tyre was really hard work to begin with in race one, but as the laps counted down, the car really came to me and we were very strong over the second half. The car felt fantastic and I was able to keep my nose clean as all manner of chaos kicked off around me!
“When I got into second and saw how far ahead the leader was, I did think it would be a tall order to close the gap, but I kept on pushing and it was awesome to win again and break my Civic Tourer duck. It was about time that Lady Luck smiled upon me!”
Neal had recovered from a solid fifth on the grid to victory in the opening race after contact between his Honda Yuasa team-mate Gordon Shedden and Rob Austin‘s Audi exiting Clark on lap 11 handed him fourth place, before he was gifted second when Scot Shedden tangled three laps later with the Civic of reigning champion Andrew Jordan at Scotsman corner.
Neal cruised to victory after his swift move on Tordoff for his first win of the season, a relief having not in fact lead a single lap in 2014.
Race two however was less fruitful, Neal caught out by a visibly longer wait before the lights went out as he crept slightly before the start, earning him a drive-through penalty. Team-mate Shedden was involved in another incident directly behind him this time at Scotsman corner with Austin on lap one, a race Neal felt got away from the Honda duo as the triple champion lies seventh in the drivers’ championship.
Neal was disappointed by race two, saying: “We briefly looked to be on-course for a one-two in race two, and I felt a bit hard done-by with the penalty, in truth, because they held us longer than usual before the starting lights and these cars can begin to creep slightly. It was marginal at best.
“That made race three much harder work than it should have been, but focusing on the positives, we’re back leading the manufacturers’ championship again and well in contention for the teams’ title.”
The weekend in Knockhill saw Neal’s victory help Honda leap to the head of the manufacturers’ championship once again, ahead of MG now by 18 points as the series next heads to Rockingham this weekend on 6/7 September.