Matt Neal: “Rockingham Puncture Could Have Cost Us A Car”

Matt Neal said that he was lucky to have survived a race one puncture at Rockingham, salvaging solid points again to remain firmly in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title battle with six races remaining.

The Honda Yuasa Racing driver closed to within 27 points of his team-mate and new championship leader, Gordon Shedden, after collecting results of eighth, fifth and fourth at Rockingham last weekend, keeping the pressure on the podium finishers in the final outing of the day.

“The best way to describe it would be to say it was a steady weekend,” reflected Neal who, although without silverware from Corby, said that he achieved positive results despite grip troubles.

“We struggled a little bit for front-end grip throughout and couldn’t really put our finger on it, and we kept hovering around the back end of the podium without ever actually reaching it.”

The real scare for the triple BTCC champion’s weekend came in the opening race of Sunday’s action. Heading for a comfortable top-five finish, the Civic Type-R suffered a punctured front-right tyre halfway around the final lap of the race.

Neal limped home still inside the top 10, salvaging eighth place which he admitted afterwards was a very fortuitous outcome when pondering what could have potentially occurred.

Photo: Honda Yuasa Racing
Photo: Honda Yuasa Racing

“I picked up the puncture halfway around the last lap in race one, which was unlucky but lucky at the same time – if it had happened going through Turn One, I could have lost the car completely.

“I was happy to salvage eighth in the circumstances. I then got mugged at the start of race two, but it was a lot of fun fighting my way through the pack.

“In race three, the car felt the best it had all weekend, which was surprising given we were on the soft tyres. The Honda has always been renowned for looking after its tyres, though, and I was very pleased to finish fourth.”

After a fine weekend again for the Honda squad that saw team-mate Shedden take a fourth win of the season and move into the championship lead, Neal concluded that the recovery since Snetterton for the Dynamics outfit has seen them now in a strong position.

We’re working our way back after the nightmare of Snetterton and three solid scores here have kept us firmly in the hunt.”