Two wins for the Honda Yuasa Racing team’s new Civic Type-R delighted championship leader Matt Neal, who added another Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race win to his tally in a sparkling weekend for the squad.
Neal picked up his 54th BTCC race win in the third of the weekend’s three races in Kent, fending off Triple Eight‘s Jack Goff in a thrilling finale to a day of racing that saw Honda’s new Type-R collect a brace of wins.
Gordon Shedden had previously narrowly beat Andy Priaulx to the line for race two honours by just 0.040s, Neal leaving the day as joint leader in the Drivers’ Championship with Goff but overjoyed to have seen two wins for the new car on its maiden weekend.
Neal told The Checkered Flag that wins so soon for the new car was a shock to the system, saying: “It’s so unexpected – I didn’t even think we would get one win!
“I was elated when Flash (Shedden) got his win, but to get two out of three with the new car, that’s absolutely fantastic.”
Victory in race three was by no means an easy feat for the triple BTCC champion. Bolting on soft compound tyres for the final 27-lapper of the day, Neal cannily waited for his opportunity to pounce on leader Rob Austin, doing so successfully midway through the race at Clearways.
The final five laps were about the Honda man’s defence from Goff’s MG6 GT, Neal hanging on to win by less than half a second for what he said was a hard-fought win.
“We went with the soft tyre option in the last one. I kept having to ask back on the radio as to what tyres the rest of them around me were on, they kept reminding me they were on the hard tyres so I knew I had to hurry up because the last five or six laps were never going to be mine.
“I managed to slip past Rob and make a wee bit of a gap to Jack, but then he just slowly reeled me in. I was looking backwards a lot more than I was forwards in the end.
“Every time I crossed the stripe I was going ‘4 more laps to go, that’s all’ and so on, but we got there in the end.”
The experienced Neal – now having competed in over half of all BTCC races staged – admitted that leading the championship is something that he is not getting too carried away with at such an early stage in the 30-race campaign.
More pride instead he said should be taken from the overall performance of the squad’s new Type-R, praising the winter work of the Dynamics outfit who head to Donington Park on 18/19 April just five points adrift of MG in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
Neal concluded: “It wasn’t my year last year. It’s early days now but I’m just going to enjoy this moment after a great day.
“A fantastic start; both me, Flash and all the guys have worked so hard in such a short space of time – not just to get a quick car, but to make it two wins out of three. Mega.”
BTCC Championship Standings After Round 1/10:
[table id=80 /]