After qualifying sixth on the grid for Sunday’s first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race at Croft, Matt Neal admitted that the ballast-laden Honda squad enjoyed a “dream” result on Saturday.
The triple BTCC champion, carrying 57kg of success ballast for being third in the championship, climbed the order from 18th in free practice to sixth place overall in qualifying, team-mate Gordon Shedden third on the grid.
Neal admitted afterwards that the result was positive for Honda Yuasa Racing, ending 0.6s adrift of the front-running West Surrey Racing BMWs of Sam Tordoff and Andy Priaulx.
“Pleased and chuffed with sixth”, Neal told The Checkered Flag after qualifying.
“But disappointed still because you always want just that wee bit more. When you’re so close then your brain just gives ‘what if?
“That said, after free practice I was thinking maybe top eight as a target so sixth for both cars is a dream with the weight.”
An unknown for Sunday afternoon remains the weather, with rain predicted to arrive at some stage in the day. Neal denied that a damp track would play to Honda’s advantage over rear-wheel drive rivals, saying: “Rain would produce a whole load of new problems!”
Honda have previously won 13 of the 47 BTCC races held at Croft circuit since 1997, and Neal believes that the performance of the newest Civic Type-R model gives him confidence that the squad can add more this weekend.
“It seems like every circuit we go to now we are on the ragged edge”, he concluded.
“We’re always looking to find that little bit extra each time and it’s really exciting for us.”
Neal enters Sunday’s action eight points adrift of Jason Plato, but six places ahead of the Team BMR Volkswagen after the latter qualified down in 12th place.