Neal Wins As The Title Battle Hots Up
Submitted on October 21st 2012 13:24 by Chris Ashby.
Matt Neal has won round 28 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at the historic Brands Hatch GP in Kent to close on team mate Gordon Shedden takes a 17 point championship lead into race two.
The top three are now covered by just 20 points, the equivalent of a race win, with two races remaining today. Shedden crossed the line in fifth whilst Jason Plato could only manage eighth after seemingly struggling in the wet conditions.
Speaking after the race Neal said; “We are now back in the hunt again, the car was mega in the wet conditions as we knew it would be and it is all too play for with two to go, for me and Gordon its shake and bake time.”
The reigning champion made a lightning start to go second into Paddock Hill Bend behind pole sitter Tom Onslow-Cole but by lap three Neal dived down the inside at the same corner to take the lead from the eBay Motors driver where he controlled the race to the flag.
Championship leader Shedden slithered past Plato at Dingle Dale showing that with maximum ballast the Honda Yuasa Civic is a proven weapon in the wet conditions. The KX Momentum MG6 however struggled in the rain as Plato suffered with front end grip and a lack of straight line speed.
Andrew Jordan crossed the line in second extending his Independents lead over Robert Collard to 35 points with a maximum of 40 available. However the Honda driver can no longer win the outright title.
Jordan used all his rally cross experience to follow Neal over the line with Onslow-Cole ready to pounce if either made a single mistake. The safety car made a brief appearance after Ollie Jackson’s Golf found itself in the gravel at Druids. Plato couldn’t take advantage of the safety car period as the top seven pulled away immediately as racing resumed
The notable action in the race occurred with the rapid Irishman Aron Smith picking off the top ten to finish a magnificent fourth notably leaving Shedden in his wake. Shedden slowly lost ground to Smith and fell into the clutches of Collard and Dave Newsham. The Vauxhall Vectra and BMW spent a whole lap passing each other and applying pressure to the Scot who could not shake them.
In the end though it was Neal who claimed his fifth victory of the season with Andrew Jordan and Tom Onslow-Cole rounding out the top three. Smith was fourth and Shedden crossed the line just holding off Newsham and Collard for fifth, sixth and seventh. Double champion Plato had to settle for eight with Will Bratt and Jeff Smith rounding out the top ten.
Two races left and Shedden will enter race two on 375 points with Plato on 357 and Neal with 355 points. Notably it will be the triple champion that will be carrying maximum ballast with Shedden dropping to just 9kg and Plato carrying none at all. Will Plato improve in race two? Can Neal take a bigger chunk out of the championship lead? Finally can Shedden hold his nerve to claim his first title?
The second race of the day and the penultimate meeting of the season will take place at 13:55 and can be seen on either ITV4 or www.itv.com/btcc
PHOTO CREDIT: Jon Hobley