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Honda duo pleased with fruitful season-opener

Honda Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden were delighted with the running of their new Civic Tourer, as the pair recorded a successful opening weekend in the British Touring Car Championship.

Entering the 2014 season with a different model to that which had secure the team the previous two constructors’ and teams’ championship, both Neal and Shedden were competitive from the off, with the pair eventually qualifying fourth and fifth respectively.

In the first race of the day, Neal made a forceful move on eBay Motors’ Colin Turkington to climb into third place, while teammate Shedden also passed the Northern Irishman to secure a 3-4 finish across the line.

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Race Two marked Shedden’s first podium of the year, as he hounded race leader Andrew Jordan for the victory, nearly passing the Pirtek Racing driver into Paddock Hill Bend before settling for second place. Neal survived an early scare to finish in fourth.

The third race of the day saw Neal also achieve a second-place finish after a late overtake on Rob Collard, while Shedden finished in sixth. The team ended the weekend in a familiar position, as leaders of the teams championship, while Neal sits second in the drivers championship on 45 points, two places ahead of Shedden.

The pair, for whom 2014 marks the fifth season of competing together with the Team Dynamics operation, were both overjoyed with the car’s performance in the opening weekend.

“I’m chuffed to bits with the results, absolutely over-the-moon,” said Neal. “Okay, we didn’t win a race, but we certainly made our presence felt and threatened the top spot. Every time we go out in this car, we are learning something new and making progress. What’s more, the longer, more sweeping circuits should suit the Tourer a lot better.

“The level of competition in the BTCC is so incredibly high this year that you’ve really got to roll your sleeves up just to stay inside the top ten – but we will always dig deep and find something, so underestimate us at your peril.”

“What a start for the new Civic Tourer!” exclaimed Shedden. “I honestly don’t think anybody expected us to come away from the car’s first weekend with a podium in every race. Historically, Brands Hatch Indy has always been my bogey circuit; last year, I left 37 points off the championship lead, so this is a massive turnaround.

“Overall, it was a really good, solid opening meeting. To be this competitive this early is fantastic, especially as we will only improve as we really find the car’s sweet spot – and there are some circuits coming up that should suit the Civic Tourer better. We are firmly in the game, the car is quick enough to win – and there’s plenty more still to come.”

Team Manager Peter Crolla was similarly pleased with the outcome of the weekend, and was keen to express the need for consistency across the season.

“I’m very happy,” added Crolla. “We were expecting a much tougher time of things, because we didn’t think this circuit would be as well-suited to the Civic Tourer as it ultimately was.

“The car was strong on both compounds of tyre and from an engineering point-of-view, the whole weekend went very well. We’re making good steps with the Tourer every time we run it.

“We notched up six good points finishes and learned a lot along the way, and to come away with a podium from each race, we couldn’t really have asked for much more than that. This championship will be won by consistency, so it was crucial to get off to a solid start because we’ve left ourselves on the back foot before and paid the price.”

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