The Honda Yuasa Racing team overcame setbacks and appalling conditions to win two races at the third round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton.
The NGTC Honda Civics of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal set the pace throughout free practice, but things went wrong in qualifying. Reigning champion Neal, who had topped the damp-but-drying session early on, crashed out, while Shedden’s pole lap was taken away due to overboosting problems with the turbo.
The result was that Shedden lined up 18th, one place ahead of his team-mate, but there was still the hope of some good results in the three races.
“Qualifying was disappointing – the boost was as much over as under – but that’s the rules,” said Shedden. “When I woke up and saw it was wet I had some optimism.”
That optimism proved to be well founded as Shedden charged through the field to sixth, despite a first lap accident. Neal wasn’t too far behind, climbing to 10th in the heavy spray.
Starting sixth for race two, Shedden continued his good work and took the lead just after half-distance, despite problems with his windscreen wipers. Neal also suffered similar issues, but fought through to fifth.
The duo saved the best until last. Neal started fifth and Shedden ninth for the reversed-grid finale, but had risen to second and fourth respectively after just one racing lap!
A fight between Neal and Frank Wrathall allowed Shedden to pass both and he soon took the lead from Tony Gilham, running the 2011 Honda Shedden won at Thruxton with last season.
Neal soon joined him at the front and, after swapping positions to allow Neal to score an extra point for leading, Shedden led Honda Yuasa Racing’s second one-two of the season.
“In race one I was pointing the wrong way after contact with Rob Austin and was punted straight by Andy Neate, so my day could have been a lot worse!” said Shedden. “I was passing them everywhere – the car was just handling so well.”
Shedden, who is now second in the BTCC drivers’ standings, just four points off the lead, also pointed out how his partnership with Neal is driving the team forward. “Our priority is to get Honda across the line first,” he added. “We push each other, but we have always said if we can help each other, we will.”
For Neal, the weekend didn’t quite deliver as hoped, but he is still in the top three in the points table. “We thought it’d be fantastic after free practice, but qualifying went wrong for a variety of reasons,” said the triple champion. “The car just got away from me so to come back and get the results we did is really good.
“I questioned on the green flag lap whether we should start race two because of the spray, so it’s good to get through with two relatively unscathed cars.”
Neal too was happy to work with Shedden after the fight with Wrathall damaged his steering. “We had a chat on the radio as we went round and the team wanted us to look after the tyres,” added Neal.
“I thought with Gordon being heavier [due to success ballast from race two] he might work his tyres harder, but we were worried after I got the hit from Frank about the wear of my left-front. It was the sensible decision.”
As well as having both Shedden and Neal in the top three of the drivers’ table, Honda Yuasa Racing currently leads the Teams’ Championship, and Honda/Dynamics tops the Manufacturer/Constructor battle.
There is now a break of over a month before the next round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, which takes place at Oulton Park on June 9-10.