Matt Neal enjoyed a hat-trick of top-four finishes at Oulton Park but was disappointed not to have come away with a victory in the final Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race of the day in Cheshire last weekend.
Having narrowly missed out on a maiden pole position of the season by just 0.011s in a tight qualifying dice on Saturday, the Honda Yuasa Racing man followed big BTCC rival Jason Plato home in the opening race of the day to confirm more crucial championship points.
Adding fourth place in a trickier second encounter, Neal had held the lead for much of the final race of the day until he fell foul of fluid on the racing line heading through Lodge corner late in proceedings. The Civic skated wide, allowing West Surrey Racing‘s Sam Tordoff through for victory, while Andrew Jordan‘s MG soon also demoted Neal to third after a forceful move at the same point on the circuit.
The trio of top-four results kept Neal just eight points adrift of new series leader, Plato, and just five behind Honda team-mate Gordon Shedden after a productive scoring afternoon.
“I’ve got to be happy with a second, third and fourth, but I don’t like giving away wins,” reflected Neal afterwards, referring to the final race which he felt slipped from his grasp.
“I was managing the gap and really thought we had it in the bag – everything was under control and then the rear of the car stepped out on lap nine.
“Initially I thought it was a puncture, but it turned out that it was oil on the track that you couldn’t see because of the shadows beneath the trees, and I was the first on the scene. After I figured out what it was, I got my head back down, but by that point the horse had bolted.
“That was obviously frustrating, but ‘Flash’ and I came away with three solid finishes apiece so it’s onwards and upwards.”
Despite a third win of the season deserting the triple champion at Cheshire, Neal insisted that the continued front-running pace all weekend of the Civic Type-R gave him more confidence and great driving satisfaction behind the wheel.
“The Civic Type R is working great and we’re learning more about it all the time”, he continued. “It’s an awesome piece of kit that makes me excited going into every race meeting.”
The next stop on the BTCC calendar is Croft circuit, Neal, formerly a six-time winner at the North Yorkshire venue, adding: “I’m looking forward to Croft next; I love that circuit and I love driving this car.”