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Honda ready for title defence

The Honda Yuasa Racing Team and their drivers, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden head to Brands Hatch, looking to start the defence of their 2011 Championships with some solid points in Kent.

Neal secured his third Championship last season, edging out Shedden in the final round of the season and the two of them are among the favourites for the 2012 crown, and Shedden can’t wait to get the season underway in front of the thousands of fans expected at Brands.

“Brands provides a fantastic amphitheatre and I’m looking forward to getting out there and putting on a show for all the fans,” he added. “Now we’re going racing and that’s what it’s all about.”

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Brands Hatch marks the race debut of the team’s new NGTC Honda Civic and Neal is hoping to replicate the Pole Position he secured at the same stage last season to get his campaign off to a flying start.

“We’ve done some race runs, which were good,” said the triple champion “We got the old car to be bulletproof and that’s what we need with this. It’s early days and we’re on a really steep learning curve.

“The very first time we ran the previous Civic we won at the first meeting [at Brands in 2007] so if we could do that again with one of the cars this weekend that would be fantastic.”

Due to the regulations in the BTCC, Neal and Shedden won’t run the same amount of boost compared to their rivals and Neal believes that there will be a lot of competition this weekend.

“It all depends where we are on the boost,” added Neal. “The corner speed we’ve got with the car is really good. They say Brands is a handling track, but you need some grunt up the straight too. Everyone’s got a punt at it.”

Shedden is looking for a better start to his 2012 campaign than he had in 2011, where he went off in free practice and then missed qualifying, which led to him starting at the back of the field for the opening race.

“It’s the first race for the new Civic and it’s exciting times,” said the 33-year-old. “The guys have worked so hard to design and build the car. It’s a totally new challenge.

“I’ve never been off to a flying start. The shunt at Brands last year was bad so I really need to get out there and score some good points.”

The car has had some teething problems throughout the winter testing, but Shedden is confident despite the issues.

“The aim is to score as many points as possible. I think there’ll be some ebbing and flowing at the start of the season as they adjust the boost levels for the different cars.

“If the Civic is capable of winning we’ve got to try and win, if it’s capable of fifth we need to make sure that’s where we finish. Hopefully we’ll taste the champagne again after the winter – six months is a long time!”

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