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Matt Neal: ‘I don’t like giving away wins’

Matt Neal was left feeling frustrated after the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) races at Oulton Park, with the former champion feeling that he could have mounted a challenge for the win in race one but for a patch of oil on the circuit.

Neal came away from the weekend with a solid batch of results, taking a second, fourth and third in the day’s three races respectively to ensure that he remains in championship contention, just eight points behind new leader Jason Plato.

However the 48-year-old admits that in race one, where he finished second behind Plato, he felt he could have challenged more for the lead, but for a patch of oil concealed in the shadows of the picturesque circuit.

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“I’ve got to be happy with a second, third and fourth, but I don’t like giving away wins,” said Neal. “I was managing the gap and really thought we had it in the bag – everything was under control and then the rear of the car stepped out on lap nine.

“Initially I thought it was a puncture, but it turned out that it was oil on the track that you couldn’t see because of the shadows beneath the trees, and I was the first on the scene.

“After I figured out what it was, I got my head back down, but by that point the horse had bolted. That was obviously frustrating, but ‘Flash’ [Shedden] and I came away with three solid finishes apiece so it’s onwards and upwards.”

Neal, who remains third in the drivers’ championship, now looks forward to Croft at the end of June, where he last won in 2013.

“The Civic Type R is working great and we’re learning more about it all the time. I’m looking forward to Croft next; I love that circuit and I love driving this car. It’s an awesome piece of kit that makes me excited going into every race meeting.”

Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden slipped to second in the standings, with the Scot managing just one podium finish out of the trio of races on the Oulton Park Island circuit. Having qualified in an impressive fifth position despite carrying 75 kg of ballast, the 2012 champion professed to having exceeded his expectations.

“It was a solid weekend,” said Shedden. “It’s fair to say we outperformed our expectations in qualifying given the ballast we were carrying, and with the soft tyres in race one, I had to drive fairly defensively – although this is always a difficult circuit to overtake around.

“Race two was pretty uneventful, and Jason knows what he is doing round here – as long as you place your car in the right part of the track, it’s nigh-on impossible for the driver behind to get past. He would have had to make a mistake for me to gain the position, so I just tried to put him under as much pressure as possible.

“We didn’t get the balance of the car exactly how I wanted it this weekend, but it’s important to put points on the board in situations like this – they could prove very valuable come season’s end.”

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