Thruxton BTCC: Neal beats Turkington to Race 1 win
Matt Neal converted pole position into a race win in the opening BTCC event at Thruxton, taking the first victory for the new shape Team Dynamics Honda.
Neal had set a record-breaking pole position lap, and continued that form into the 16-lap race. He fended off a strong early challenge from Colin Turkington (WSR BMW) as the pair raced side-by-side into the Complex on the opening lap.
Neal had the inside line for Campbell corner and sealed first place. The gap between the pair ebbed and flowed but was rarely more than one second. In the end, he crossed the line 0.8s ahead of his rival.
It was Neal’s 62nd career win. He said: “That one was for [the late motorsport journalist and commentator] Henry Hope-Frost.
“What a great result for the new car too. I was sitting in front waiting for the tyres to go off because Colin was right on me, but it never happened. I had the best start I have had for a couple of years and was able to fend off Colin, which was important.
“Our car is very strong in the quick corners out the back of the circuit, and because I was ahead, I was able to stretch my legs a bit.”
Turkington set a new lap record in his efforts to rein in Neal, with a 1m17.243s tour to lower the oldest record in the championship. The previous benchmark was Yvan Muller’s 1m17.303s benchmark, set in the Vauxhall Astra back in 2002.
Neal’s teammate Dan Cammish took third place after jumping fellow second-row starter Brett Smith (Eurotech Honda) off the line as his rival bogged down when the lights went off.
Sam Tordoff (Motorbase Ford) overtook an unwell Andrew Jordan (WSR BMW) after four laps to take fourth spot, and Tom Chilton (Motorbase Ford) usurped the BMW just after half distance too.
The main casualty of the event was points leader Tom Ingram. He pitted in his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota after only five racing laps. He had maintained his starting position in the top 10, but an electrical problem forced him to park up.
Thruxton BTCC: Neal sets new lap record en route to pole
Thruxton BTCC: Cook vaults from ninth to Race 2 win