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Steve Neal wary of BMR’s Subaru threat

Hafords Yuasa Racing boss Steve Neal is wary of the potential threat from Team BMR’s new Subaru in the 2016 British Touring Car Championship, despite not having run side-by-side with the new car at the official pre-season launch.

Neal, who oversees the hugely successful Team Dynamics outfit – currently the longest-serving team in the BTCC paddock – believes that the new boxer engine in the Subaru Levorg is pushing the boundaries of the current rules.

When asked by TouringCars.Net as to how he thinks the Civic Type R’s will fare against their Japanese rivals in the forthcoming season, Neal was typically honest in his answer.

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“I’ll tell you after how we see the Subaru goes with its mid-engine,” said Neal. “They’re taking the piss they are. The engine isn’t that small actually. To change the lugs they’ve got to do it from inside the car.

“We’re very friendly with some of the guys in the Subaru market and they all tell us that this engine is very frail, if they’re using it.”

Not only are Team Dynamic’s rivals changing for the 2016 season, but there have also been changes behind the scenes at the Honda team as well. Despite continuing to run as a manufacturer entry, Honda have drastically reduced their budget, resulting in Halfords and Yuasa partnering up as title sponsors.

“We’ve always kept a good relationship with [Halfords],” explained Neal. “When the new marketing director came in he went back to what they’d done in the past, and he found that the most successful thing that they’d done on the internet was to race cars, so he reinstituted it straight away and it was a no-brainer, really.

“Plus, Yuasa turn over a substantial amount of their business with Halfords. Considering that they’d done nothing until we introduced them, there they’ve built up around £12 million a year.

“We had another deal with an oil company, I won’t name them, but they’ve gone off and sponsored Jolyon [Palmer, in F1].

“Honda have reduced their contribution because they used to underwrite the whole thing anyway. That was the deal we had with them – we could bring in a certain amount of sponsorship and they would underwrite the difference, but gradually that’s diminished, as they’ve been having some very poor trading in Europe, so that’s reflected.

“The UK accounts for 65% of their European sales, which is ridiculous, because the other 30 countries in Europe aren’t generating the business, and they include Russia and Israel. Considering they had a factory in Belgium at one time, now if you go to Belgium you never see a Honda – there’s no loyalty.”

The other significant change for Team Dynamics is the addition of a third car for the first time since 2006, with Andy Neate taking up the drive. Neal added that the deal came together relatively late, due to the budget for the drive being higher than what some of their rival teams were offering.

“We know where we are with Matt [Neal] and Flash [Gordon Shedden]. As for Andy – we’ll see; he’s got to get his act together. He’s a bit late with his car, but then again he’s a bit late with his money as well.

“We had one or two [drivers] approach us, but when we told them what the budget was to run it they ran away! We wouldn’t run the cars any differently no matter who the driver is, so they’ll be run exactly the same. It’s an expensive way to do it.

“I remember Laurent Aïello when he was driving for Nissan – he wouldn’t go out of the garage without any new tyres on, because there was no restriction on how many tyres you could have. He just had brand new tyres every time he went out, whether it was a five lap run or a 50 lap run.

“Now we’re not that bad on tyres because we’ve got the same restrictions as everybody else. Say on brakes for example, our boys want brakes, brakes, brakes. We go through brakes like nobody’s business. At that critical moment a new brake is that critical amount different to the old one. When you’re trying to run a car for £250,000 it’s too tight. How BMR do it free of charge to everybody, I don’t have a clue!”

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