Honda Yuasa Racing took three wins out of three at Thruxton today (5 May), as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship produced some frenetic racing at the fastest circuit in the UK.
Neal took his 50th BTCC career victory in the opening race, after benefitting from Andrew Jordan’s last lap heartache when a puncture prevented him from claiming both the win and the championship lead.
Neal kept pole-sitter Jordan honest throughout, however, and was perfectly poised to take the win when the front left tyre deflated on the Honda Civic ahead of him. A despondent Jordan, who also set the fastest lap of the race, eventually crawled home in 11th.
MG’s Jason Plato did just enough to hang on to second position as the chequered flag fell, whilst the impressive Onslow-Cole took the first ever podium for a VW in the modern era.
The race had started in dramatic fashion when contact between Plato and reigning champion Shedden pitched the Honda Civic into the barrier on the entry to Seagrave. Whilst the MG continued unabated Shedden finished way down the order after a brief pit stop to change tyres.
Neal’s 51st victory immediately followed as he doubled up in the second race – this time in commanding fashion. The three-time champion controlled the race from start to finish, having contained some early pressure from old rival Plato before the latter faded.
Onslow-Cole improved on his earlier position to claim second in the VW Passat after fending off the charging Hondas of Shedden and Jordan in a battle that went right down to the wire.
Shedden then secured his second win of the season in the final encounter as he led home a Honda 1-2-3 following a late puncture for Plato. Neal took second ahead of Jordan and completed his sensational day by taking the lead in the Drivers’ standings.
A podium for Jordan was the least he deserved after his undoubted pace was blighted by misfortune in race one. Onslow-Cole took fourth, rounding off his own impressive performances following the double podium from the first two contests.
Other notable finishes came in the shape of Jeff Smith who hauled his Honda Civic inside the top six in all three races, whilst Airwaves Racing enjoyed its most encouraging outing of the season so far with fifth and seventh places for Aron Smith and Mat Jackson respectively in the final race.
The Jack Sears Trophy – for S2000 machines – produced its usual thrills and spills, but it was Lea Wood who enjoyed the most success.
The Vauxhall Vectra racer claimed two wins, whilst Liam Griffin grabbed the other in his Ford Focus. Both now jointly lead the order, having taken three wins apiece from the opening nine races of the season.
Matt Neal said: “You can’t get much better than this! The 50th win feels as sweet as the first one all those years ago. It’s hard to explain just how stoked I am – it’s absolutely awesome! I didn’t expect one win to be honest, never mind two. I love Thruxton – it's unspoilt and it's completely flat out.
It's not usually a happy hunting ground for me to be honest – unlike places like Brands Hatch or Donington for example – so to get the wins and a 1-2-3 for Honda in the final race is fantastic for the championship.”
Gordon Shedden: “It was a difficult start to the day but we can leave with our heads held high after the win. It still feels like a day of what might have been but if you had told me I’d take a win and a third after the incident this morning I would have thought you were joking. Two wins and a second is fantastic for Matt – the old boy’s still got it! He now leads the championship, which is great, but we’ll work hard and work together to see if we can both be in the fight.”
Andrew Jordan: “We bounced back well after the disappointment of race one. To be in contention at the end of this season I think you have to show how you can come back from those moments, and we did that. Of course, considering the pace we showed this weekend it’s really frustrating not to have taken a win, but there’s been a lot of positives too. We’ll keep pushing because we’re in the hunt for the championship.”
Lea Wood: "I'm really pleased to be in the joint lead of the Jack Sears Trophy, the car was fantastic today. We struggled a bit in the first race, but made some adjustments to the back end and that certainly helped us out big time in the last two races. Everything came together in the last race especially – obviously we can't touch the NGTC boys, but between the S2000s it's really close and we're always battling with each other. It was great fun out there.”
Honda Yuasa Racing