The Honda Yuasa Racing Team had its best Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship event of 2012 so far at Oulton Park last weekend, taking a clean sweep of all three races.
Not only did reigning champion Matt Neal and team-mate Gordon Shedden prove unbeatable in their NGTC Honda Civics across the three action-packed encounters, they also moved into first and second in the drivers’ table. Shedden now leads Neal by five points, and the squad continues to head the teams’ and manufacturers’ championships.
After Shedden’s dominant performance last time out at Thruxton, it was Neal’s turn to star at Oulton. He narrowly missed out on pole, but took the lead of race one early on and never looked back. Only the independent Honda Civic of Andrew Jordan was able to stay close to the triple champion.
Shedden found the set-up not to his liking, but still battled to a fine fourth before changing his Civic for the second race. When Neal was struck with a turbo problem in the early laps and delayed Jordan, the championship leader was able to move from fifth to third.
The Honda then closed on the squabbling Rob Collard and Mat Jackson at the front, and jumped past both when the two clashed exiting Island hairpin. Shedden then led Jordan home to take his fifth victory of the season.
Despite his turbo issue, Neal managed to salvage fifth, which handed him a row-three start for the reversed-grid finale. He quickly charged to the front, then defeated arch-rival Jason Plato to score his third win of 2012, while Shedden was only 1.1 seconds behind the victor, in fourth!
Neal believes the results demonstrate how good the Civic is, despite the fact that it has to run the lowest amount of turbo boost in the series due to the regulations. “We still don’t agree with the rules, but we’ve won eight out of 12 races, which is monumental,” he said.
“The car’s good and we’ve continued to improve it. We had a great test at Pembrey [before Oulton], but we’re going to keep pushing.”
He also enjoyed defeating Plato. “I was trying to get a car between me and Jason, but every time I made a hole he followed!” added Neal. “I had a moment on oil at Lodge, and you only have to give Jason a sniff.
“To have such a strong weekend in the manufacturers’ and teams’ points is very important to us.”
Shedden admitted he was surprised that the weekend went so well, particularly after the Honda Yuasa Racing Team had to change his fuel system before the event due to problems during the Pembrey test.
“This was totally unexpected, what with the way the boost levels are,” said Shedden. “It shows you just how we’ve worked to improve the chassis. We’re still able to get it on the podium.”
Despite the success, Shedden knows that, with 18 races still to go, the championship is far from won: “We’ve got to keep racking up points so it’s good to score some here and keep it going.”