Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal said he has “never been so chuffed” to lose out on his front row start as team-mate Dan Cammish took the spoils in qualifying for the opening British Touring Car Championship race at Thruxton.
The triple champion had initially set a time good enough for pole position, before being pipped first by Tom Ingram’s Toyota Corolla and then team-mate Cammish, demoting him to the head of the second row.
Neal joked to ITV after the half-hour qualifying session that he hates qualifying at Thruxton because of the bravery it takes to produce a fast lap time, but noted the improvements in terms of safety that are made year-on-year at the notoriously high-speed circuit.
“I hate it! I was just talking to Tom [Ingram] and he goes ‘I hate qualifying here’ and I went, ‘I love it, but I hate it too!’
“It’s so on the edge and you’re just hanging on, in free practice one both Dan [Cammish] and Tom were straight on it and I just thought – a man at my age I’ve got to build myself up a bit!
“We were both nervous before we went out, but year on year, fair play to the BARC every time you come here they make circuit improvements.
“They’ve done a great load of work on the outside of Church, and the circuit is really looking well.”
Neal admitted he was expecting Cammish to out-qualify him given the former’s practice-topping pace but explained that he was pleasantly surprised to find himself on provisional pole after his first run.
“I resigned myself early on that I was going to be behind Dan, and then suddenly I ended up in first, and I thought I had a chance there,” he said.
“And then Tom beat me, and then I’ve never been so chuffed to be pipped off the front row as when Dan did it!
In terms of expectations for the trio of races, Neal was more relieved that he had his best qualifying result of the 2020 season so far as he believes the closely-fought nature of the championship now places even more emphasis on qualifying.
“The BTCC is so close now that it’s all about qualifying, so at least we’re starting at the right end!
“But Thruxton is one of the places where you can overtake – with slipstreaming and drafting – you’ve just got to make sure you get a good start, because the BMWs will be somewhere alongside us I’m sure by the first complex!”
The opening British Touring Car Championship race at Hampshire’s Thruxton circuit is set to get underway at 11:40 BST.