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Honda chases further Thruxton glory

Honda Yuasa Racing Team duo Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden are chasing more wins in their NGTC Honda Civics during rounds seven, eight and nine of the 2012 British Touring Car Championship which takes place at Thruxton this weekend.

Both reigning Champion Neal and team-mate Shedden have secured victories in the opening six races, with Shedden the only two times winner to date after a double victory last time out at Donington Park,

The fast, flowing Thruxton circuit proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Honda duo in 2011. Shedden led home Neal in the first race for a 1, 2 finish before Neal returned the favour in the second race.

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Shedden led home the first Honda 1, 2 finish of the 2012 campaign at Donington Park and arrives in Hampshire fifth in the standings, while Neal is second overall.

“I’ve had some great results there and some terrible times with punctures,” he said. “It’s always been exciting!

“Thruxton is a unique challenge. You either take to it or you don’t and I love it.”

Shedden is hoping that the Honda Civic will not be at a disadvantage this weekend, with the announcement that most of their rivals have had their levels of boost increased due to the BTCC’s new lap-time equalisation regulations.

“You need a good, balanced chassis, but it’s the fastest track in the UK so you need straightline speed as well,” explains Shedden, who arrives at Thruxton with 9kgs of success ballast on board the #52 Civic.

“The target is to score as many points as possible. I’m reasonably light so hopefully that will help in qualifying, then we’ll see how it pans out.”

The abrasive surface of the Hampshire track has caught out Shedden a number of times and Dunlop creates special tyres just for the three races in Hampshire. With the switch to the NGTC machinery, Shedden is unsure of how the tyre will work.

“It’s a completely different beast, so it’s a clean sheet of paper really,” he said. “It’s a different tyre and we don’t know how the set-up will work with it.

“The first two practice sessions will be crucial, but Matt and I will work together to find the right set-up for qualifying.”

Team-mate Neal arrives at Thruxton second in the Championship, just four points off the Championship lead. He shares the same view of Shedden, that the tyres will be key over the weekend.

“The 18-inch NGTC tyre is meant to be more bulletproof than the old one, but no-one has run the new tyre at the speed and with the weight we’ll have,” he said. “On paper it should be better.”

Despite having a mixed history at Thruxton, Neal also enjoys racing at the circuit: “It’s never been a happy hunting ground for me, but I love it,” he added. “It’s unspoiled and is a big-commitment circuit.

“They’ve flattened the chicane this year so it will be a learning curve to see how much speed you can take through there, but apart from that I don’t think it’s changed since I first raced there in the BTCC in the early 1990s.”

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