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‘Awesome’ first 2014 win for Matt Neal

Honda’s Matt Neal has labelled his win at Knockhill ‘awesome’ after the former champion scored his first win of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season in Scotland.

Neal took victory in a thrilling opening race of the weekend, marking a return to the top step of the podium. The 47-year-old’s previous victory had come more than a year ago at Croft in June 2013.

“The softer tyre was really hard work to begin with in race one, but as the laps counted down, the car really came to me and we were very strong over the second half,” reflected Neal on his first win in the Civic Tourer. “The car felt fantastic and I was able to keep my nose clean as all manner of chaos kicked off around me!

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“When I got into second and saw how far ahead the leader was, I did think it would be a tall order to close the gap, but I kept on pushing and it was awesome to win again and break my Civic Tourer duck. It was about time that Lady Luck smiled upon me!”

Things did not go so well for Neal in the second race, however, as he was handed a drive-through penalty for having been adjudged to have jumped the start. He went on to finish the race down in 14th position.

“We briefly looked to be on-course for a one-two in race two, and I felt a bit hard done-by with the penalty, in truth, because they held us longer than usual before the starting lights and these cars can begin to creep slightly. It was marginal at best,” explained Neal, who went on to finish just outside the top ten in 11th in race three.

“That made race three much harder work than it should have been, but focussing on the positives, we’re back leading the manufacturers’ championship again and well in contention for the teams’ title – and it was certainly my best weekend for quite some time,” concluded the triple champion.

Neal’s success at the weekend contrasted with the fortunes of team-mate and local driver Gordon Shedden, who experienced an up-and-down weekend that meant his third-place finish in race one was as good as it got.

“I was disappointed we didn’t have a better weekend – it promised a lot more than it ultimately delivered,” admitted Shedden, who remains second in the driver’s championship standings. “That said, we didn’t actually expect the car to go as well as it did round here – and it was great to get up on the podium in front of all the Scottish fans in race one.”

Things went downhill for Shedden in race two after he was caught up in an early incident between Mat Jackson and Rob Austin that saw him tumble down the order on the opening lap of the race. The Scot fought his way back to 12th and up to sixth in race three to ensure that the gap to series leader Colin Turkington remains at only 23 points.

“The events of race two set us back, and race three was a salvage job after that – although we had good pace in the car, with it being so tight round here, there was nowhere to use it,” admitted Shedden. “The doors just didn’t open for me.

“Overall, it was a missed opportunity. The results weren’t quite what we wanted, but our pace and performance were strong again and there is still almost a third of the season to go. Now we need to keep our heads down and do the best job we can over the remaining races.”

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