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Tourer scores big on BTCC bow

The Civic Tourer has big boots to fill when it comes to Honda models in the BTCC, and the early signs suggest it is more than up to the challenge after securing an impressive points haul at Brands Hatch.

Honda has a clear and simple DNA of winning titles in Britain’s premier series, as it has done in both the teams’ and manufacturers’ standings in each of the last four seasons. Team Dynamics also has a history of producing cars that have scored victories first time out, which includes wins under the three most recent sets of regulations in the BTCC.

The squad won with the Integra back in 2005, before repeating the feat in 2007 with the Super 2000 Civic. Dynamics then became the first team to take victory under the current NGTC regulations, with an all-new Civic in 2012.

So on to Brands Hatch at the end of last month and the question as to how the new Japanese machine would compare with the already established cars of the Civic hatchback, MG6 and BMW 1-Series to name but a few. Not forgetting of course that the 2014 BTCC season opener looked set to be one of the most competitive in the series’ history, suggesting positive results and podiums would be even harder to come by on the car’s bow.

Winning championships of course requires supreme consistency and the need to maximise every opportunity, as Honda Yuasa Racing knows only too well, and that is exactly what the squad produced in Kent.

The Tourer proved to have front-running pace from the outset, albeit a fraction behind Andrew Jordan’s Civic and Jason Plato’s MG in the cut and thrust of qualifying and the opening race. Expert preparation of the cars plus the experience and speed produced by its duo of drivers in Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, however, gave the team a stellar start to the campaign that even bettered its efforts from recent title-winning seasons.

A sextet of top six finishes, including three podiums, whilst its rivals collected mixed results mean the squad has already taken up its regular spot of heading both the manufacturers’ and teams’ championships. Neal and Shedden are second and fourth in the drivers’ standings respectively, both within touching distance of reigning champ Jordan and with more favourable venues to come for their ‘estate’ style machines.

“I’m chuffed to bits with the results, absolutely over-the-moon,” said triple champion Neal. “Ok, we didn’t win a race, but we certainly made our presence felt and threatened the top spot. Every time we go out in this car, we are learning something new and making progress. What’s more, the longer, more sweeping circuits should suit the Tourer a lot better.”

Team-mate and 2012 supremo Shedden was equally delighted. “What a start for the new Civic Tourer!” echoed the Scot. “I honestly don’t think anybody expected us to come away from the car’s first weekend with a podium in every race. Historically, Brands Hatch Indy has always been my bogey circuit; last year, I left 37 points off the championship lead, so this is a massive turnaround.

“Overall, it was a really good, solid opening meeting. To be this competitive this early is fantastic, especially as we will only improve as we really find the car’s sweet spot – and there are some circuits coming up that should suit the Civic Tourer better. We are firmly in the game, the car is quick enough to win – and there’s plenty more still to come.”

There was some talk of the other title contenders needing make the most of the early rounds while Honda would likely be getting the Tourer up to speed, but it seems they’ve joined the party ahead of schedule and they’re unlikely to be leaving any time soon.

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