Moonlighting… ITV’s David Addison on BTCC legend Matt Neal
There was something fitting about the Diamond Double winner. Matt Neal has been a mainstay of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship for… well, forever really and in this age of the young guns taking over, Matt proved that he hasn’t lost it.
From the Ford Fiesta XR2 Challenge to Group N and a successful stint with BMW M3s and then the mighty Nissan Skyline, Matt’s credentials arriving in the BTCC were good. There was the rather under-cooked Mazda Xedos 6 admittedly, but largely he has been in competitive cars. Take out stints for Triple Eight and its Vauxhall Vectra, and he’s largely been in the family team, which has had greater significance of late as Matt isn’t just a driver but the owner, a player/manager if you like.
So that means find the backing, funding the team, paying the wages – oh, and then add the pressure of winning races. Each season, people ask me whether this will be Matt’s last and it is the same answer: “Why would he stop when he is still winning?”
This season has been a fascinating one to watch Team Dynamics. Gone is Gordon Shedden and in has come Dan Cammish but it is Matt who has done the winning. It is interesting to see how Matt has risen to the occasion to put himself back as team top dog given it had been Shedden taking titles in recent seasons. In fact, given the way a BTCC season shakes out, could this be a fourth title season? He is third heading to Rockingham only 16 points away from the lead. Sixteen. That is hardly anything with four events still to run.
In Matt’s armoury is his experience. All of those years in the BTCC can be added to events like the Nurburgring 24 Hours. He’s done a spell in the European Touring Car Championship and raced in V8 Supercars and even in the Australian MINI Challenge. He knows how to win races and titles.
So can he take the title? Yes. Absolutely he can. Impressively, at 51 years of age, his competitive spirit is undimmed. Yes, he has had bad weekends and the odd run-in but Matt has been a great ambassador for the BTCC over umpteen seasons and maybe in this 60thanniversary season, one of the championship’s longest-serving front-runners would be an apt champion.
But then you could argue that in an anniversary season it would be fitting to have a first-time champion like Tom Ingram or Jack Goff to herald in the next chapter of the championship’s history. Either way, we are in for a fascinating end to the season…
But then you could argue that in an anniversary season it would be fitting to have a first-time champion like Tom Ingram or jack Goff to herald in the next chapter of the championship’s history. Either way, we are in for a fascinating end to the season….