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Honda anticipates better Brands outing

Honda Yuasa Racing drivers Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal are hoping for a return to their early-season form at Brands Hatch this weekend, as they bid to end the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season with a competitive showing after a disappointing previous two meetings.

Hopes for another championship-yielding season were high when the team debuted their Honda Civic Tourer at the circuit back in March, with the pair scoring three podiums between them on the Kent venue’s shorter Indy configuration layout.

But six-and-a-half months later, the outfit – who have won at least one title in the previous four seasons – find themselves in worse shape than they have been in recent years, with Shedden having been ruled out of contention for the drivers’ championship last time out at Silverstone, Neal on course for his worst championship finish in more than a decade and the team retaining on slender hopes of holding onto their manufacturers’ crown.

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Nevertheless, 35-year-old Shedden, who has scored points in all but one of this season’s races and won the final race of 2013 at Brands, believes that after the team’s recent struggles, the nature of the layout will lend itself to the car.

“The GP circuit is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the calendar,” said Shedden. “It’s a fantastic place to race, and it should suit our car considerably better than Silverstone did. Hopefully we can have a really good crack at it.

“It’s a real old school circuit, with lots of undulation and quick corners, and that makes it a very exciting challenge. It’s always going to be tough in the BTCC, so we need to really optimise what we’ve got, exploit the Civic Tourer’s excellent handling qualities and hopefully get up somewhere near the sharp end. If we can do that, then hopefully we can finish this season on a high.”

Neal was similarly excited to return to Brands, and with pedigree around the Kent circuit, he was eager to prove what he can do after a trying 2014 campaign.

“Brands Hatch has always been a pretty happy hunting-ground for me – be that on the Indy loop or full GP circuit,” said the 47-year-old. “In fact, both ‘Flash’ and I have traditionally achieved good results there, and there’s a real stadium atmosphere to the place. It’s fantastic for both the crowd and for us as drivers, because we can see the fans rising to their feet when the racing gets underway. It’s exhilarating.

“It’s obviously a former F1 circuit and one of the old classics on the calendar. It requires some proper commitment out the back of the lap through Hawthorn and Westfield, and the Civic Tourer should respond well to the track’s technical demands. It would be nice to have a strong end to the season with some positive results and podiums.”

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