‘Monkey off the back’ for Halfords Yuasa Racing and Cammish
A hard-fought win for Dan Cammish topped off a strong weekend back at Thruxton for Halfords Yuasa Racing, with the team scoring podium finishes in all three races.
Qualifying brought contrasting fortunes for Honda’s two drivers. After topping the time sheets in first practice, Cammish took a competitive third grid spot with a lap of more than 111mph, less than one-hundredth-of-a-second off of the pole position time. Neal struggled with the setup of his Civic Type R (FK8) and wound up a disappointing 17th on the grid, half-a-second behind his team-mate.
Cammish – scorer of eight podiums in the previous 14 races and one of the form men in the BTCC – was carrying more success ballast than either of his rivals ahead aboard his Type R, but he maintained third spot at the start of race one – quickly turning into second when Jason Plato was penalised for a jumped start. Thereafter, the Honda stayed in touch with leader Sam Tordoff, but the extra weight told as the race wore on. Cammish, though, withstood the challenge of Adam Morgan to score his eighth podium finish of the season.
Neal staged an impressive comeback performance to carve through the field, passing fellow former champions Colin Turkington, Andrew Jordan and Ashley Sutton on the way to an eighth-place finish.
Weighed down by even more success ballast, Cammish’s car bogged down at the start of race two and he slipped back to sixth. Neal meanwhile made up a place and the two Hondas then ran together for several laps as part of a frantic battle involving a train of cars. Opportunistic passing with 11 laps on the board promoted Neal to fourth just ahead of his team-mate, before he spectacularly rounded rival Tom Oliphant at the final chicane to secure third and maintain his record of at least one podium finish at Thruxton in each of the last 10 seasons. Cammish came home a fighting fifth.
Fortune then smiled on the Halfords Yuasa Racing drivers, the draw for the final race putting Cammish on the outside of the front row with Neal just behind in fourth. The field lined up under threatening skies, and after initially being outdragged off the line by Oliphant, Cammish quickly regained second spot and closed in on leader Rob Collard.
Rain began to fall around the circuit as the Honda made several passing attempts on the run to the chicane, finally making the move stick with four laps left. Controlling his slick-shod car on the now rain-soaked track, Cammish stretched his lead to secure the Halfords Yuasa squad’s first victory of the season. To complete the team’s joy, Matt Neal took third spot.
Cammish and Neal now lie third and seventh in the Driver’s title chase heading towards Knockhill in a couple of weeks’ time, while Honda has closed the gap in the Manufacturers’ championship, holding a strong second, and Halfords Yuasa Racing regained the lead of the Teams’ points chase.
“Thruxton was my best weekend this year: first, second and fifth,” said Cammish. “To finish race one in second with the weight on was a good effort. I almost stalled at the start of race two and if I had, my weekend would have been ruined – shows you need a bit of luck in Touring Cars at times given just how fine the margins are.
“I battled back to fifth and once the weight came out for race three I knew we had a good chance. I drove a sensible race, didn’t take too much out of the tyre in the opening laps. It was difficult with the rain at the end, but the team kept me cool and calm and we took the win.
“I was on pole at Knockhill last year. I’ll go there with the car much heavier than ever before but that won’t stop me giving it a good go.”
“We had a great day, especially considering how we started the weekend – I was very relieved,” added Matt Neal – Halfords Yuasa Racing driver and Team Dynamics Director. “I didn’t get a win but the next best thing – four podiums for us as a team, our best weekend of the year so far.
“Knockhill is a circuit that favours some of our rivals but we’ll go there in confident mood and see what we can do.”