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Matt Neal delighted after race three victory

Honda Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal was delighted to have scored a win in the third British Touring Car Championship race of the season but conceded that the victory was one that he had not predicted.

Starting the final race of the day on the soft tyre, Neal overtook long-time leader Rob Austin with six laps remaining and fended off Jack Goff to secure a first victory since Knockhill last year.

Neal now leads the championship by virtue of having stayed ahead of Goff, with whom he is level on points, and admitted that the result had come earlier than he had expected.

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“We had high hopes and realistic expectations,” he told TouringCars.Net. “I was stood on the top step of the podium and I actually thought ‘I didn’t expect to see this view this weekend’.

“I was chuffed to bits when Flash got his [win] never mind mine as well.”

Plenty of noise from Honda coming into the season suggested that their new model, the Civic Type R, was a step forward from the Tourer that they campaigned in 2014.

And Neal was adamant that the car was more competitive than its predecessor, particularly after boost alterations in the marque’s favour.

“It feels incredibly different, not just to the Tourer but also the Hatchback that we had before,” he said. “The new engine is a big step forward that we’re running which is fantastic, it’s really got us in the game in the speed traps and we can now concentrate on other areas.

“We’ve still got some work to do on the chassis and the car though because the BMWs are very quick, the VWs are very quick, we’re under no illusion about that.”

While some of his opposition had struggled with the soft tyre earlier in the day, Neal managed his well in the final race to hold onto victory – although he confessed that he was on the limit in the closing stages.

“I think I was a bit lucky with the early safety car which let me put a few miles on them [the tyres] to start with, and the Honda has historically looked after its tyres a wee-bit better than the others.

“But they were definitely fading in the last four or five laps, I was having to be very mindful and I was watching the rear-view mirror probably twice as much as I was looking forward.”

Despite the team’s double victory, Neal insisted that he was keeping his expectations in check ahead of the series’ visit to Donington Park.

“It’s my local circuit and I’ve got a lot of fond memories including my first win there,” he said. “But 75 kilos in qualifying isn’t going to be pretty to carry so you could say would you make the top fifteen or twenty – it’s so close and so competitive – but the car is running well, you need a good engine and good power there and that’s what we’ve got at the moment.”

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