Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden each came away with a rostrum finish and a solid haul of points from the sixth outing of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Snetterton.
The popular Norfolk circuit’s ‘300’ layout is the longest lap on the BTCC calendar – not to mention one of the quickest. Neal qualified his Honda Yuasa Racing Civic Tourer an excellent fourth on the 31-car grid for race one, with a frustrated Shedden 11th and struggling with the extra weight of success ballast due to his championship position.
Neal fought his way through into third in the opening encounter to secure his first podium since Thruxton three months ago – a welcome change of fortunes for the three-time BTCC Champion – whilst Shedden battled gamely up the order to take the chequered flag seventh, in the midst of a multi-car squabble over fifth.
“We knew it was going to be a challenging weekend.” reflected ‘Flash’, who remains second in the drivers’ table, just 23 points adrift of the top with 12 races left to run. “Snetterton is fast, but there are a lot of heavy-braking areas and with so many stop-start sections, the ballast really does affect the car. What’s more, whilst the Civic Tourer handles fantastically and stops on a sixpence, we are hampered by the engine limitations down the long straights.
“Qualifying only 11th meant it was going to be a difficult race day, but I managed to grind out some results and make up places in every race, and points do make prizes at the end of the season – they could be vital by the time we get to Brands Hatch in October. It was a tough weekend, but we did the best job we could. There’s still plenty of racing to go, and hopefully the tide will turn a little bit over the next couple of meetings.”
“In general, we have to be reasonably satisfied to walk away with a load of points this weekend.” echoed Neal, who sits seventh in the overall classification. “For me, it was just good to find the podium again! It was always going to be a blood bath with the long, fast straights here and our power restrictions, but between us, we achieved two podiums and plenty of points and I’ll definitely take a third and a fourth.
“The car felt really good in the last race on the soft tyres, too. I was having a bit of a tussle with ‘Turks’ and had just set fastest lap, when I got hit from the rear going into the hairpin at Turn Two, which wrecked my race and cost us valuable manufacturers’ and teams’ points. There’s always next time, though, and there’s plenty of fight left in me yet.”
Shedden and Neal’s combined efforts enabled Honda to reclaim the lead in the manufacturers’ championship and preserve second spot in the teams’ battle.