HOME HERO NEAL WARY OF GIOVANARDI AS BTCC TITLE RACE ARRIVES AT DONINGTON PARK CIRCUIT Matt Neal says "I'd be cutting my own throat" if he was to discount Fabrizio Giovanardi in this year's HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship title race...
HOME HERO NEAL WARY OF GIOVANARDI AS BTCC TITLE RACE ARRIVES AT DONINGTON PARK CIRCUIT
Matt Neal says "I'd be cutting my own throat" if he was to discount Fabrizio Giovanardi in this year's HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship title race just because a below-par start to the season has left the Italian maestro trailing him by 21 points after two rounds.
Worcestershire driver Neal (pictured) will arrive at his home circuit of Donington Park this weekend (16-17 May) for round three of this year's BTCC leading the current standings, with defending Champion Giovanardi third after two non-scores in the opening round at Brands Hatch.
Donington has been home to some of Neal's greatest triumphs - in 1999 he scooped GBP 250,000 for beating all the manufacturer teams' drivers as an independent and in 2005 he achieved two wins in a day to kick-start what would be a title-winning season which he followed up with a second straight crown in 2006.
Neal, aged 42, joined reigning champion outfit Vauxhall last year, but had to watch as superstar Giovanardi, already ensconced in the team, achieved his own second BTCC title to add to the seven other honours he had already racked up across Europe. Each, therefore, is vying to pip the other to a third BTCC Champion's trophy and, so far in 2009, events have swung in Neal's favour. He leads Team RAC BMW driver Colin Turkington by ten points while his advantage over Giovanardi in third is greater than a race win.
Asked if toppling a driver of Giovanardi's proven abilities gave him pleasure, Neal told btcc.net: "Fabrizio had a bum day at Brands Hatch. It happens, but I'm sure he'll not be letting it happen again any time soon. So I'm therefore keeping my mouth tight shut as I would only cut my own throat!"
He added: "Out of all the people I've raced against and alongside, I must speak very highly of Fabrizio. You think you have a good lap in your pocket and he'll find something extra nine times out of ten. You have to be having a very good day to be with him, never mind edge in front of him. You only have to view his racing CV to confirm this. Plus I think he now knows more English swear words than I do!
"As for leading the championship at the moment, that is great but really means nothing. All it means is my car will be carrying more success ballast than anyone else's. It's October time you need to be saying the same..."
Neal says the Donington Park circuit, on the Derbyshire-Leicestershire border, remains a firm favourite among drivers and motor sport enthusiasts alike and the lure of the BTCC - Britain's top motor racing series - will undoubtedly mean a bumper crowd this weekend.
The Worcester Warriors rugby union fan added: "Sure, Donington is one of the closest tracks to where I live, so it's great to have friends and family around. It's also the place of our GBP 250k big one back in '99, so does hold a lot of special memories for me. I like the circuit lay-out, too - it has a good mixture of everything.
"Any member of public who has been to a BTCC round at Donington knows they are in for a very exciting and action-packed day. For anyone thinking of giving it a go, the level of entertainment and racing spectacle is unrivalled. The closeness, the noise and speed - it's a fantastic day out for the whole family with three BTCC races and cracking support championships racing through the day as well."
Trackside tickets to Donington's BTCC race day this Sunday (17 May) are just 23.00 per adult if booked in advance and online while admission for children aged 15 and under is FREE. All prices include access to the BTCC paddock and Pit Lane Walkabout when the public are invited into the pit lane to meet the BTCC's star drivers for autographs, photos and team give-aways. To book tickets visit the Donington website www.donington-park.co.uk