BTCC: Matt Neal Secures Honda Yuasa 1-2 at Thruxton Opener

Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Contributor

Matt Neal secured a lap record breaking pole position and was hoping to reach sixty BTCC wins to match Andy Rouse’s tally. His teammate Gordon Shedden lined up 2nd in a Honda Yuasa front row lockout, with Jack Goff securing 3rd, only one and a half tenths behind the other Honda’s.

Tom Ingram, the Championship leader lined up 4th and was the first non-Honda on the grid, with Rob Austin an impressive 5th, Jeff Smith impressing for Eurotech once again with 6th. Adam Morgan lined up 7th, with the Subaru Levorg of Ash Sutton, Colin Turkington and Mat Jackson rounding out the top ten on the grid. All cars were running the hard tyre throughout the weekend, the only changing variable would be success ballast given the proneness to the Thruxton kerbs being nasty to tyres. Each driver would have to navigate the high speed circuit for 16 laps.

Neal-01

The start of the race was surprisingly static, although Shedden did have a look at his teammate going into the first corner, but Neal was able to brake a little bit later and trade a little bit of black and orange paint up the inside. There was a bit of animosity between Jake Hill and Josh Cook as they leaned on each other at the complex. both cars suffered enough damage to retire.

By lap four, the top four were covered by just over a second and were in the same order as the start. Adam Morgan was creeping up the order, and passed Rob Austin on lap 5 and was immediately in the mirrors of Tom Ingram’s Avensis, which was starting the fall back on the top three Honda’s.

Ingram

Next past Austin was Ash Sutton, who was having another great race in the Subaru. It released some pressure from the chasing Mat Jackson and Colin Turkington, until both of these drivers overtook Austin on the following lap, with Turkington able to use his momentum to sneak past Jackson’s Ford too and claim 7th.

The Subaru isn’t the best car on the grid at the moment in the speed traps, so it was a surprise to see Ash Sutton set the fastest lap on lap nine with a 1.17.619, marking Sutton out as a very impressive driver. It would be interesting to see how much further up the order he would be had Subaru decided to do some testing at Thruxton before the race weekend.

The Honda Yuasa’s were controlling the race well, with Neal leading Shedden by over a second, but Jack Goff was starting to come under some serious pressure from Tom Ingram. There was a battle developing further back in the points, with a three-way battle between Jeff Smith, Aiden Moffat and Mat Simpson fighting for 11th.

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On the final lap, Ash Sutton nearly caught Adam Morgan for 5th, but ran out of laps to fight. Honda Yuasa converted their great front-row for a 1-2 finish in race 1, Matt Neal now has 60 BTCC wins and matches the record of Andy Rouse. Jack Goff secured a podium for Eurotech from Tom Ingram, who still leads the Championship although the gap has reduced to 15-points with Shedden’s better finish in race one.

After the race, Matt Neal said,

“It’s tough out there. I’ve been doing it for nearly a quarter of a century and I still get nervous. We set our own expectations and we had a rotten weekend here last season, but to bounce back with a 1-2, and a 1-2-3 with Jack Goff for Honda is great.”

– Matt Neal

Adam Morgan managed to hold onto 5th and Ash Sutton was one of the standout drivers of the race, putting his Subaru 6th purely on his own merits. This didn’t look like a circuit where the Subaru would be particularly strong, so 6th is a great result. Colin Turkington finished 7th, with Mat Jackson 8th, Rob Austin 9th and Rob Collard sneaking into the top ten.