Despite a first non-finish of his 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season, Matt Neal left Thruxton a happy man and expects the Honda Yuasa Racing team to be just as strong at Oulton Park next month.
The Honda squad picked up their fourth win in nine races thanks to Gordon Shedden in Sunday’s opening race, the Scot leading home team-mate Neal for a first one-two finish of the year for the Civic Type-R duo.
A collision with BMR Racing‘s Aron Smith cost Neal his championship lead and resulted in the latter retiring with front-left damage in race two, but a charge through to sixth left Neal positive as he sits just 11 points adrift of his team-mate Shedden in the championship after three meetings.
“Race one was just an awesome start to the day for us”, Neal told The Checkered Flag at the end of the weekend. “I did rue that the day could have been better for me because of what happened in race two, but it was then great to come back and score some solid points in race three.
“It’s lovely to be in a car that’s working well and I was pretty shocked in qualifying at the pace we had, even with the [75kg] weight. With both of us up there, we’ll hopefully be a force to be reckoned with.”
The charge from 25th and last on the grid in race three to sixth place was one of the personal highlights for Neal on Sunday, one which the Honda driver admitted was a tough battle to come through.
“There was some pretty close racing out there – they were fighting like bears”, quipped the triple champion.
“Our big strength all weekend has been corner speed. When we’re in traffic however we’re losing downforce, so that was giving my tyres a hard time also, but the car still felt very good.”
The former championship leader added that dropping to third in the standings may be a blessing in disguise heading to Oulton Park on 6/7 June – a track Neal expects will hurt those carrying the most success ballast.
“I’d have loved to have had the bragging rights again, but if you’re going to carry a bit less weight in the car then Oulton is the one to do it at”, said Neal, who will carry 57kg into Oulton Park. “We’re only 30% of the way through the season. There’s a long way to go yet.
“[Oulton Park] is a tight circuit. I think qualifying is going to be really critical, plus weight I think is going to be a key factor for the guys that are at the head of the championship.”