Neal secures home win for Honda
Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal secured a lights-to-flag victory in the opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race at Thruxton, after seeing off race-long pressure from Team BMW rival Colin Turkington.
Despite the season so far being dominated by a number of young drivers, it was the multiple BTCC champion duo of Neal and Turkington that stepped up to the plate at the UK’s fastest circuit.
Neal claimed a maiden pole position for the all-new Honda Civic Type R during qualifying yesterday, and he duly converted that advantage into a 62nd BTCC victory. Turkington hauled his BMW 125i M Sport alongside the #25 Honda off the line, but Neal hung on at the Complex as all 32-cars made it through for the first time.
Turkington kept Neal honest throughout the 16-lap contest, but their positions remained the same until the finish. BMW man Turkington scored an extra point, however, as he smashed the longest-standing lap record in the BTCC – a 1:17.243s lap time beating Yvan Muller’s benchmark from way back in 2002.
“That was very special – this one’s for Henry Hope-Frost,” said Neal. “We’ve certainly got the fever today. It’s the first win for the new Honda Civic Type R, and on Yuasa’s 100th Anniversary weekend. I think the warm weather suited us and helped us to get the power down with front-wheel drive, and I got the best start I’ve made in a couple of years.
“We did a race simulation yesterday and knew we were pretty solid over a race distance. Still, I thought Colin would come back at me, but one of the new Civic Type R’s key strengths is its speed through the quick corners out the back of the lap and that allowed me to stretch my legs a bit. I’ve now got to carry 75kgs in race two, but ballast gives you traction, doesn’t it, so bring it on!”
“No BTCC race is easy and you can never take anything for granted, but that was a great start to our day,” responded Turkington. “Once again, the BMW was very strong over a race distance, but we just didn’t quite have the legs on Matt – we had the pace to begin with, but three-quarters of the way through, he started to leave me a bit through the quicker corners, just as my car was beginning a bit of rear stability.
“Still, I kept pushing to the last lap and whilst we didn’t quite have enough there, we look forward to the next one. Everybody knows in this championship that you’ve got to be consistent and keep scoring points – and uncharacteristically, that’s what we haven’t done so far this year, but the whole BMW team is really strong and hopefully we can build from here.”
The final place on the podium wasn’t so clear cut as Brett Smith made a sticky getaway from third on the grid. The WIX Racing with Eurotech man slipped down the order as Honda rookie Dan Cammish inherited fourth ahead of a fast-starting Andrew Jordan in the BMW Pirtek Racing car.
Sam Tordoff joined the battle shortly after and the Motorbase-run Ford Focus was soon by Jordan, who has himself been struggling with a stomach bug during the weekend.
Tordoff hounded down Cammish, although the latter fended off every advance for the duration of the race, and grabbed his second outright rostrum of his debut season.
“Matt [Neal]’s pole lap yesterday was pretty special – that certainly taught me a thing or two – and Sam [Tordoff] was really quick towards the end of the race,” said Cammish. “I had to dig deep to hit every mark. What a great result for Honda, Halfords and Yuasa – and now we’ll aim to build on this.”
Tom Chilton took a lonely fifth behind stable-mate Tordoff, after the Team Shredded Wheat with Gallagher driver also got the better of a fading Jordan.
Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Senna Proctor and Josh Cook were seventh and ninth respectively, with the recovering Smith in-between the two Vauxhalls, and the spirited Chris Smiley in the BTC Norlin Racing Civic rounding out the top ten.
It was a race with little by way of incident although championship leader Tom Ingram was forced out of the race with an electrical issue following contact with Cook’s Astra. Tom Boardman and Michael Caine arguably produced the most dramatic moment of the bout with a clash at the final chicane sending both into retirement. Caine received a verbal warning and his licence was endorsed with two penalty points for his part in the incident.
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 7 – Thruxton
1 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing 16 laps
2 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.860s
3 Dan CAMMISH (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +3.699s
4 Sam TORDOFF (GBR) Team GardX Racing with Motorbase +4.040s
5 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +5.290s
6 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +8.922s
7 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Power Maxed TAG Racing +9.361s
8 Brett SMITH (GBR) WIX Racing with Eurotech +9.725s
9 Josh COOK (GBR) Power Maxed TAG Racing +14.929s
10 Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +15.436s
11 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +15.591s
12 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing +16.620s
13 Jack GOFF (GBR) WIX Racing with Eurotech +16.780s
14 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport +17.787s
15 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +18.096s
16 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing +18.529s
17 Tom OLIPHANT (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +19.922s
18 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +21.773s
19 James COLE (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher +23.602s
20 Jake HILL (GBR) Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing +24.888s
21 Mike BUSHELL (GBR) Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing +26.893s
22 Josh PRICE (GBR) Autoglym Academy Racing +27.155s
23 James NASH (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +27.766s
24 Rory BUTCHER (GBR) AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing +28.022s
25 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmD with Cobra Exhausts +30.185s
26 Bobby THOMPSON (GBR) Team HARD with Trade Price Cars +38.299s
27 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker Racing +38.648s
28 Sam SMELT (GBR) AmD with Cobra Exhausts +38.965s
DNF Jason PLATO (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +3 laps
DNF Tom BOARDMAN (GBR) AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing +3 laps
DNF Michael CAINE (GBR) Team HARD with Trade Price Cars +4 laps
DNF Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +11 laps