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Matt Neal believes staying out of trouble ‘will be paramount’

Despite feeling less optimistic about the performance of the Honda Civic Type R at Silverstone compared to other circuits, three-time British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal is still aiming to erode Sam Tordoff’s five-point championship lead at the penultimate round of the season this weekend.

Neal heads to Silverstone off the back of a solid weekend at Rockingham, with three top eight finishes allowing Neal to trim Tordoff’s advantage by four markers. Halfords Yuasa Racing were also able to wrestle the lead of the HiQ Teams Championship by a single point from Team JTC600 with GardX, and Honda have similarly reduced WSR’s advantage in the Manufacturer stakes.

With the strengths of the Type R coming alive during high-speed corner sequences, Honda are faced with a headache in the form of the 1.64 National circuit at Silverstone, which is characterised by long straights and the heavy braking zone into Woodlands.

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“I’d be fibbing if I said Silverstone was our most eagerly-anticipated track of the year,” admitted Neal.

“The Honda Civic Type R’s key qualities come to the fore in high-speed corners, where its grip and aerodynamics really score – but due to the National Circuit layout, that won’t really factor into the equation next weekend.”

“It’s also tough carrying success ballast this season; you can’t look a superstar in qualifying – it’s all about playing the long game, and Silverstone will be tricky with the weight because it will hurt us in a straight line.”

“Saying that, we expected a difficult weekend at Rockingham and that obviously turned out alright, so you just never know – especially given how difficult to predict the BTCC is at the moment.”

Despite having the odds stacked against him, Neal underlined his faith in the ever-potent Honda package and emphasized the need for consistency in this years ultra-competitive championship race.

“Our little Civic Type R surprises us every time out, and we are constantly making improvements. The title battle is still wide open and a small advantage can be eroded over the course of a single race, never mind a full weekend so we need to keep our heads down as consistency and staying out of trouble will be paramount.”

The question of experience is one that has been raised recently, with championship leader Sam Tordoff experiencing the pressures of a BTCC title race for the first time against more experienced opposition.

Neal re-affirmed that both he and team-mate Gordon Shedden know exactly what they need to do as the series enters it’s final stages.

“When you get to this stage of the season with so much at stake, it’s all too easy for your emotions to take over but having been there before, we both know what to expect.” commented Neal.

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