The Honda Yuasa Racing Team endured a tough time at Snetterton in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship last weekend but still came away at the top of the drivers’, manufacturers’ and teams’ points tables.
After a long summer break and tweaks to the successful NGTC Honda Civics, Matt Neal and Gordon ‘Flash’ Shedden headed to Norfolk hopeful of adding to the 10 wins they had already scored in the first 15 races. Sadly, continuing boost restrictions in the series and some poor fortune damaged their chances.
Problems began in free practice when steering issues hampered reigning champion and points leader Neal, and a fuel system problem caused Shedden’s car to dramatically catch fire. Shedden escaped unharmed and the blaze was quickly extinguished, but the damage was severe and Shedden had to sit out the second session.
The Honda Yuasa Racing Team mechanics did a great job to get Shedden’s car ready for qualifying, but then electrical gremlins struck, consigning the 33-year-old to the back of the grid. Neal, with the maximum 45kg of success ballast, qualified seventh.
The races proved much better. Neal moved up to fourth and Shedden charged through to seventh, both being able to use the Civic’s excellent chassis and fine braking to make up for the power disadvantage.
Neal clashed with arch rival Jason Plato in race two as they disputed the lead and fell to fourth, but Shedden came through to second. It was a successful race for Honda, as the Independent Eurotech-run Civic of Andrew Jordan took its first win of the year.
Shedden took a fine third on the road in the final encounter, but then lost the place – and the championship lead – when he was excluded due to accidental overboosting from the Civic’s turbo. Fortunately, Neal recovered from an early clash to take eighth and maintain Honda’s one-two in the driver standings.
Despite his disappointment, Shedden had done a great job to fight his way back after all his troubles. “If there’s any bad luck going it seems to go to me,” he said. “After yesterday the fact I had a car at all was a miracle.
“Taking the ballast out and getting in the slipstream helps a lot round here, and it was close between me and Matt on pace.”
“I was so close to Andrew I didn’t see what happened between Matt and Jason. I stayed out of trouble and did the best job I could.”
Neal was frustrated with his weekend, but still scored decent points. “It’s been a rotter, but it’s the regulations,” said the treble champion. “My attitude is ‘it is what it is’.
“Nothing can live with the Honda on the brakes and there are positives for the weekend – a win for Andy is a silver lining on the cloud. You’ve got to have the rough ones to appreciate the good ones.”
Neal now leads Shedden by eight points in the drivers’ standings and is 10 clear of the best non-Honda driver, while the squad comfortably heads the manufacturers’ and teams’ tables.
The Honda Yuasa Racing Team’s next outing takes them to Shedden’s home track of Knockhill in Scotland, on August 25-26.