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Honda Racing ends fighting weekend with win

The Honda Racing Team endured a fighting weekend at Brands Hatch – ending with a win from Matt Neal. Fighting drives from both Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal from the back of the grid ensured that the team’s Civic’s were in the thick of the action.

The weekend, however, began on a dampened note for the team when Gordon Shedden suffered a massive 130mph, 10G accident in the second practice session on Saturday. The team faced a race against time to rebuild the heavily-damaged Civic in time for raceday on Sunday but against all of the odds the car was repaired just after midnight.

Matt Neal taking pole position for the opening race later in the day provided some relief for the team. However when the first race came around he would only last two corners before being taken punted into the gravel at Druids by Chevrolet’s Alex MacDowall, who was later penalised for the incident. From the back of the grid in race two he stormed up to seventh, which meant that he would start the final race from pole position after being randomly selected. A lights-to-flag victory followed to ensure Neal’s championship challenge remained firmly on course.

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“We’ve got to be pleased with what we’ve achieved this weekend but it could have been even more if I hadn’t have been knocked off the road in the opening race,” admitted Neal. “Despite that, the performance has given me confidence. The potential in the car and the speed it’s shown straight out of the box has made me really optimistic.

“When the car is in clear air, we are very fast and it’s a strong car in qualifying. We have christened the new engine and it’s performed perfectly first time out, which is a testament to the effort we’ve all put in. We aren’t going to stand still now and we will work harder than ever to stay at the front.”

From the back of the grid in race one Shedden was able to overtake numerous cars with a fighting drive to sixth position. He followed this up with a second in race two and a fourth in race three to end the day fourth overall in the championship standings.

“I’m proud of the whole team this weekend because what they did was nothing short of a miracle,” explained the 32-year-old Shedden. “My car was in bits after the incident in qualifying and the guys pulled out all the stops to put it back together. Everyone’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to give me a car to race in. What is incredible is that I didn’t only have a car to race, I had a quick car and I managed to score a podium.

“The car has got huge potential. We have the positives of the turbocharged engine and we will learn more about the handling. We were hopeful, but we didn’t know what to expect until these opening rounds were finished. The Honda has performed better than we could have hoped for and we will move on to Donington Park with a lot of confidence.”

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