BTCC: Neal takes lights-to-flag victory at Brands Hatch

Matt Neal dominated the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship around the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch. The Computeach Racing with Halfords Honda Civic Type-R driver lead away from pole position and, despite an early Safety Car ...

Matt Neal dominated the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship around the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch. The Computeach Racing with Halfords Honda Civic Type-R driver lead away from pole position and, despite an early Safety Car period, held on to cross the line one second ahead of championship leader Yvan Muller in second and Muller?s team-mate and championship rival James Thompson in third.

Neal made a great start from pole position and kept ahead of Muller who started alongside him. Thompson also got away quickly and pulled to Muller's left but was unable to get around the outside of his team-mate. Kaye made a slow start from third and he was forced to keep to the inside to defend from Robert Huff and Luke Hines. Carl Breeze spun at the exit of Druids sending the GA Motorsports Vauxhall Astra Coupe into a slow spin onto the grass on the inside of the circuit. Neal led the first lap with Muller, Thompson, Kaye, Hines and Huff all in a queue behind him.

Dan Eaves stopped on the circuit at Druids hairpin on lap 3 and the Safety Car was brought out while the marshals put out a small fire and then removed the car from the track. At the restart Neal bunched up the cars before accelerating hard near the start line and kept ahead of his pursuers. Hines tried to attack for fourth place but Kaye firmly kept his car on the inside. Huff then tried to go around the outside of Hines at Druids hairpin but was forced to back off, although his team-mate Jason Plato then successfully went around the outside of Robert Collard and up in to twelfth place.

Jason Hughes and Collard then tangled at Graham Hill Bend as Collard tried a cautious attempt at passing on the inside while Hughes moved across to take his line, causing Hughes to back of as he regained control of his car and then lost a place to Breeze. Stefan Hodgetts had a big impact against the tyres at McLaren on lap 22. The GA Motorsports Alfa Romeo 156 GTA driver lost control in the high-speed twisty section and hit the tyres head-on - the front of the car was damaged but the driver was able to walk away.

Chilton passed Huff and the Honda Civic Type-R driver immediately set about attacking Luke Hines in fourth place. The pair battled hard for several laps with Hines having to defend as hard as he possibly could over the closing laps. Neal crossed the line to comfortably win ahead of Muller in second place. After a long gap Thompson finished third with Kaye close behind in fourth, and Hines just fending off Chilton to remain in fifth place.

There was a close battle for the crucial tenth place, which is rewarded with pole position in race two due to the reverse grid rule. Colin Turkington held the position going into the last lap but he received a push from Michael Bentwood who went on to take the place. The stewards punished Bentwood for his driving and Turkington was promoted to tenth place and therefore will start race two in pole position.

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