Neal is out on his own

Neal is out on his own

Matt Neal savours his win. Pictures: DARREN PRICE.

Neal in action at the Croft.

First published in Sport

DROITWICH'S Matt Neal continued his defence of the British Touring Car Championship title with victory at Croft to ensure he enters the mid-season break with a narrow lead over main rivals Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato.

The Droitwich race ace boasts a one-pont advantage over Honda Yuasa teammate Shedden, while MG KX Momentum Racing’s Plato is only 28 behind.

It means when the season resumes at Snetterton on Sunday, August 12, three-time champion Neal will have a slender advantage as the season develops into a three-way tussle for the title.

Neal, inset, set the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying session to take pole-position for the first race in his Honda Civic but after dropping back to third, he fought back to win ahead of eBay Motors BMW driver Robert Collard and Shedden and take over at the top of the points table.

Shedden then responded with victory in the second race to re-claim the championship lead, with Neal taking the runners-up spot to complete a one-two result for Honda.

In race three, Neal finished fourth as Plato kept his own championship hopes alive with his second victory of the year.

With four wins under his belt already, the defending champion was in buoyant mood ahead of the seven-week break.

He said: “I’m pleased but all it does is give me the bragging rights for the next seven weeks before we get back to business, plus maximum success ballast in my car for Snetterton.

“Our car, the Civic, is in a class of its own under braking and through the corners but we need to test during the break because Jason and Triple Eight Race Engineering who run the MG will come out all guns blazing in the second half of the season.”

Success for Honda at the weekend also increased their lead at the top of the constructors’ standings.

Meanwhile, double champion Plato believes there is more to come from his fledgling MG team, which only returned to the competition this year.

He said: “The win was crucial in making sure we keep the Hondas in sight but, as a team, we are still learning about the MG6.

“It’s important we manage our expectations but we have a few test days planned for the break and that will enable me to get more comfortable with the car and for the engineers to work their magic. I think we can still find another second per lap.”

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