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Neal makes solid start to BTCC
2:04pm Monday 31st March 2014 in Sport
MATT Neal made an impressive start to the British Touring Car Championships with two podium finishes at Brands Hatch.
The Honda Yuasa driver secured second and third-place finishes, which is an impressive display of driving from the three-time champion, who was driving his estate style car in a competitive race for the first time.
Defending champion Andrew Jordan made a fine start after scoring lights-to-flag victories in the opening two rounds.
But former Droitwich resident Neal was delighted with the car's performance.
He said: “It’s the first time an estate car has scored a podium in the BTCC.
"We’ve really peppered the top step of the podium today but not quite made it there.
"To get three podiums from the Tourer in its first weekend is fantastic though – both Flash (Gordon Shedden) and I were up there in all three races, which is what we wanted to do this weekend.
"I’m over the moon with how it has gone.
"It was so exciting and close right the way to the last corner."
Neal had qualified for round one in fourth place and managed to improve on that by coming third.
He was not far off another top three finish in round two but was pipped into fourth by Colin Turkington.
Meanwhile, starting from pole position in races one and two, Jordan fended off separate challenges in each from two former champions.
Plato’s MG6 kept the Honda Civic honest in the season opener, while Shedden’s Tourer latched on to Jordan’s title-winning Pirtek car in the second contest.
In race three, Turkington held sway while old adversaries Neal and Plato eventually hustled their respective Honda and MG machines past Robert Collard and Nick Foster to complete the podium positions.
Plato set the fastest lap of the race along the way, but couldn’t quite manage to pass Neal’s Honda.
The solid start sees Neal second in the driver's standings on 45 points but the top five are separated by just nine points.
The Championships return to action at Donnington Park on April 19 and 20.
Plato, who races for the MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save team, said: “We were the quickest car on the soft tyres in the last race that’s for sure.
"I didn’t have weight on which helped me pick my way through the field, but it was great racing – really great.
"I actually wanted to have a go for the lead, but Matt knows how to drive a wide line and he does it very well. I like racing through the field like that – it’s good fun.”
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