Honda ‘turned the tables’ on their British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) opposition at Silverstone according to Matt Neal, whilst team-mate Gordon Shedden extended his championship lead.
Historically Honda have struggled around the Silverstone National circuit, with Neal and Shedden collecting just seven podium finishes since 2010, out of 30 starts at the circuit for the duo.
After a challenging time at the Northamptonshire venue in 2012, when the pair managed just one top ten finish between them, expectations were being kept in check in the Honda garage ahead of the meeting.
However Neal managed to notch up a trio of top ten finishes this time, with the former triple champion thus remaining in overall title contention heading to the season finale at Brands Hatch.
“It was a very solid weekend that exceeded our expectations,” said Neal. “We thought we were going to be in for a pretty tough time here and it’s been completely the opposite.
“We turned the tables on the opposition and really took the fight to them, which was night-and-day compared to previous years at Silverstone. That shocked us a bit, and I think it definitely shocked them! They thought they would be breathing down our necks going to Brands Hatch, but as it is, we’ve pulled further away.
“We had strong pace in all three races and the car felt fantastic throughout. It was a little bit of a shame about qualifying – the slipstream effect is so important round here and when it’s this close, you’re looking for literally fractions of a second – and being so difficult to overtake, that probably prevented an even better set of results. Still, we scored good manufacturers’ points again and now we go to Brands Hatch fully focused on finishing the job off.”
Heading into the meeting, Shedden lead Jason Plato by just six points in the driver’s championship battle. The gap has now increased to 23 points for the Scot, who performed well in his fully-ballasted Civic in race one to take a podium despite 75 kg of extra weight on board.
The 2012 champion was then able to follow up with a fourth and fifth in races two and three respectively to leave Silverstone as the driver who took the second-biggest points haul, after Team BMR’s Colin Turkington.
“It’s great to come away with such a good points haul from a circuit that we anticipated was going to be difficult for us because it traditionally has been in recent years,” reflected Shedden. “Arriving at Silverstone, our aim was damage limitation and to try to maintain our championship lead, so to actually extend it is a really positive outcome and underlines how hard we’ve worked on the Type R.
“We laid the foundations in qualifying with a cracking lap, and the car was mega in all three races. It was good to get the podium in the first one, and in race two we concentrated on managing everything with the weight on-board and soft tyres. In the last one, I was trying really hard to find a way past Jason, but at the same time I knew I had to keep an eye on the bigger picture.
“We’ve seen time and again that this championship can turn on its head in barely the blink of an eye, so we’ll just go to Brands Hatch, give it our best shot and see what happens.”