Matt Neal kicked off the defence of his 2011 British Touring Car Championship drivers’ title with a victory in the second race of the day at Brands Hatch, the debut race weekend for the new NGTC Honda Civic.
Triple Champion Neal, who opened the campaign with a second place finish, went one better in race two, having come out on top of a race long battle with the MG of Jason Plato.
“When he hit me the second time I smiled – in a good way!” said Neal. “He was quicker than me at that stage. Once ahead he braked a little early at Druids and I gave him a nudge. Then, at Clearways where he had been strong all day, he ran wide and left the door open.”
The reverse grid final race saw Neal drop down the order to finish seventh and he lies second in the Championship, four points off the lead.
“It’s been really positive,” said Neal afterwards. He believes that the series boost regulations’ are hurting the engines which have been prepared by Neil Brown.
“We’re getting turned over on the boost, but to get a win for the new Civic on its first weekend is great. And we’re learning every time we go out.”
Having suffered bad luck at the Brands Hatch season opener in 2011, Gordon Shedden hoped to see the back of it in 2012. Sadly it returned as he had an electrical glitch all weekend which meant that the #52 NGTC Civic kept cutting out on him.
A fifth place finish in the opening race was scant reward for the team who worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to resolve the issue. He decided to retire from the second race of the day when the issue returned, on the grounds of safety.
Having battled his way up the order in the third race, Shedden was then disqualified from the race after it was deemed that the team had been working on the car during the red flag period.
The Scottish driver believes that the package has potential looking ahead to the rest of the season and that the Team Dynamics built car looks after its tyres better than most of their rivals.
“The car is good,” he said. “Honda had a one-two in race two [with Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Civic following Neal home], which is great, but it’s personally frustrating.
“I don’t think it’s anything the team is doing or I am doing. Everything electrical was changed and we still had the problem.
“When I’ve been running I’ve been fine. To start from the back and finish fourth isn’t a bad effort. The tyres last well and we had a good balance when the car was running well.”