Matt Neal remained five points clear of Halfords Yuasa Racing team-mate Gordon Shedden after his first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship win of the season at Donington.
The triple champion became the sixth different winner in six races this season with a fighting drive in the final encounter of the day in Leicester, leading the team’s second one-two finish of the campaign.
Results of 12th and sixth earlier in the day were enough to help Neal move back to the top of the Drivers’ Championship, delighted to have moved back into the driving seat after a strong finish for the Dynamics duo.
“Chuffed to bits”, Neal told The Checkered Flag after his first win of the season. “It’s just as sweet as the first. I better get used to this feeling.
“I can’t believe it’s been two meetings and already we’ve had two one-two finishes. Halfords are back!
“We decided to take the pain with the softer tyre earlier in the day”, Neal added on a day where the softer tyre compound affected drivers significantly.“It sort of played to us with the way everybody had decided. If they’d split them between the races then there might have been a bit more of a scrap.
“I think a lot of people planned to have two strong races and then worry about the last one when they got there. It definitely played into our hands.”
The final race saw the softer tyre-shod West Surrey Racing BMWs of Sam Tordoff and Jack Goff initially give the Halfords duo a scare, their Dunlop rubber suffering later in the race as the Hondas eventually caught and passed their rivals in the final laps.
Neal picked up the story, saying: “First of all, Goff got past me and I thought he might have been on the harder tyres and I thought ‘oh man’. He pushed really hard, but then he suddenly started falling back and then Sam was holding on.
“Then with about two laps to go, he fell of the edge of the cliff. I was closing in by about two tenths a lap, then the door was opened and I didn’t need to be asked twice.”
The Honda driver admitted that the close nature of the 2016 championship already makes it tough to enjoy a perfect weekend, explaining the differences in strategy that also take their toll.
“It’s just so close between all the cars and all the teams”, Neal said. “You get a bit of weight or you’re on the wrong tyre and it makes a massive, massive difference. You can easily be outside the top 20 let alone the top 10.
“We’ve still got our issues, but we’ll keep working hard on those.”
Championship standings after round 2/10:
|1.||Matt Neal||Halfords Yuasa Racing (Honda Civic Type-R)||78||1|
|2.||Gordon Shedden||Halfords Yuasa Racing (Honda Civic Type-R)||-5||1|
|3.||Jack Goff||West Surrey Racing (BMW 125i M-Sport)||-12||-|
|4.||Rob Collard||West Surrey Racing (BMW 125i M-Sport)||-14||1|
|5.||Mat Jackson||Motorbase Performance (Ford Focus ST)||-17||1|
|6.||Sam Tordoff||West Surrey Racing (BMW 125i M-Sport)||-22||-|
|7.||Aron Smith||Team BKR (Volkswagen CC)||-22||-|
|8.||Ashley Sutton||Triple Eight (MG6 GT)||-23||-|
|9.||Josh Cook||Triple Eight (MG6 GT)||-32||-|
|10.||Adam Morgan||Ciceley Motorsport (Mercedes A-Class)||-33||1|