Matt Neal: “I’m amazed we even got to the finish line”

Matt Neal: “I’m amazed we even got to the finish line”

Photo: PSP Images

Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal says he is “amazed” he managed to finish the final race of the 2019 British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch following contact with Stephen Jelley which led to a suspension failure.

The three-time BTCC champion led the race from reverse-grid pole, gaining the lead back from fast-starting Stephen Jelley on the eighth tour.

He then came under pressure from Tom Chilton, with the latter diving down the inside at Clark Curve and brushing his way past Neal, which he was later penalised for.

Neal told TouringCars.Net he was surprised how long his soft rubber lasted, and described Chilton’s move as a “push-to-pass” which later triggered the contact with Jelley.

“The tyre was actually alright, it’s obviously not the tyre to be on. But the car felt strong, I really believe we could have won the race,” said Neal.

“So I was a bit wounded. But the ultimate suspension failure was from the [Stephen] Jelley hit. But the Chilton hit before that was what sparked it off, it was just a simple push-to-pass really.”

After Chilton passed Neal, Jelley then applied the pressure before the pair made contact at Graham Hill Bend on lap 16.

The hit damaged the left-rear suspension on the Honda Civic Type R and ultimately failed on the final lap on the exit of Paddock Hill Bend, with Neal limping home to eighth in a cloud of smoke.

“I’m amazed we even got to the finish line. The thing was on fire when we came in,” explained Neal.

“It’s a shame because everyone had really struggled on the soft tyre and we could have won. And if not, at worst we would have had a podium.

“But that’s the way it is I guess.”

Neal was the best of the wet-shod runners in race one with eighth position before finishing 11th in race two, before then replicating the best finish of eighth in the final race.

He feels the car is “working well,” but believes he and team-mate Dan Cammish did not have the luck this weekend.

“The car is good, it’s working well. We just haven’t had the luck run with us yet,” he said.

“It’s a shame because I like Brands Hatch, Dan [Cammish] likes Brands, but the weather was a bit tricky this weekend, it didn’t play to us.

“We went with the safe option of the wet in race one, as all the top runners did. It was the wrong thing to do and then race two we started in the middle of the pack.

“It was just tough around here. Then race three we should have won if it wasn’t for the hits.”