Honda Racing Team stars Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden have closed in on the lead of the 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship by taking a win apiece at Donington Park on Sunday. Honda has won the BTCC manufacturers' championship, beating rival Chevrolet.
The Derbyshire venue was the scene for the penultimate round of this season's contest and Shedden powered his Civic to victory in race one and a second position in race two to notch the highest points score of any driver over the weekend. Neal rounded off a superb weekend for the Civic drivers by dominating the final encounter. The results mean that Neal is in second place in the points going into the season's showdown at Brands Hatch in three weeks time (October 9/10) and Shedden is tucked four points further back in third place.
Matt Neal said the weekend's performance was a credit to the handling of his Honda.
The Civic was a fantastic car today and we've been able to turn up the pressure in the race for the championship.
The 43-year-old explained:
I was slightly disappointed with what happened at the start of the second event because I honestly believe we would have been in a position to win that race but these things happen in motor racing. There was a small problem with my clutch and I couldn't help but creep forward and got a jumped start penalty. Nevertheless, we have managed to cut the gap to the leader in the points and that's what we set out to do. It will be gloves off at Brands Hatch now - I am the one doing the chasing so the pressure is going to be on everyone else.
There was more joy for Neal's sister car of 'Flash' Gordon Shedden. The 31-year-old was the most successful racer of the weekend with two podiums in the opening two races and he added to his tally with a battling top ten finish in the final race of the weekend.
I am delighted. We know the Civic is a good car around Donington Park so this was a golden opportunity to capitalise on that and I was able to. I had to fight hard to get to the front in the opening race and then I used my head to hang on to second place in race two. I am right in the mix for the title for the first time so I am pleased about that. Anything could happen at Brands Hatch but we at the Honda Racing Team will be doing absolutely everything we can to make it work for us.
In the Manufacturers' Championship, Honda is 90 points ahead of Chevrolet with three races remaining at Brands Hatch and cannot be caught.
Matt Neal said:
Winning the manufacturers' title underlines what a great racing car the Civic is. We haven't had to chuck the huge amount of money at the programme that some of our rivals have been able to, and we haven't had access to a twin programme in the world championship either. For us, this has been a highly efficient programme, concentrating on the Civic's strengths and proving that the Civic is one of the best handling cars out there. Now all we need to do to cap an incredible season is claim the drivers' title too.
Team Dynamics principal Steve Neal said:
We are absolutely delighted with this result and it is a clear reflection on the strengths of the Civic in all conditions and the strength of our drivers, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden. Chevrolet and its lead driver Jason Plato are tough opponents to beat, but we respect what they have achieved and I hope they respect what we have done. We were dominant in the first half of the season and then the others caught up a bit, but we didn't rest on our laurels. We pushed the programme forward and constantly developed the Civic to put ourselves back at the head of the pack. To earn silverware at the end of the season is a credit to everyone involved: the team, Honda itself and the driver pairing we have.