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Matt Neal: "I think we're in the hunt at every circuit"

Saturday, May 30 2015

Triple Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal can't wait to get back into action at Oulton Park this June (6/7), having already taken two of the opening nine rounds of the 2015 championship in the new Honda Civic Type R.

It's a decade since Matt won his first overall title in a brand new Team Dynamics-built Honda Integra, which was until this year the last BTCC car to carry a Type R badge. The veteran campaigner isn't about to make any predictions at this stage, but is extremely pleased with how the season has progressed so far.

"I came into the season with high hopes but realistic expectations," he commented. "That said I don't think any of us thought we'd walk away from Brands with two wins on the Type R dream debut."

After winning race three at Brands Hatch to lead the standings, Matt took a second victory at Donington, but a retirement at Thruxton dropped him to third behind team-mate Gordon Shedden and reigning champion Colin Turkington. He's only eleven points off the lead, but knows that he can't afford to make mistakes after a tough 2014 campaign. "I'm still kicking myself about Thruxton," he confessed. "It was a silly one. I'm under no illusion at the level of competition, but for the first time in a few years I feel hopefully we can be somewhere in the hunt at every circuit on the calendar which is a great boost for us."

Oulton Park is where his title challenge fell apart last year, after dropping to the midfield in qualifying, but there's no trepidation from Matt: "No, that's last year. The first team I ever raced with was Goodliff Racing from Rochdale, and Oulton was kind of our home track, so it has some good memories as well as mixed ones. I think carrying the high weight we have to this year with new rules will be tough on all frontrunners at Oulton, so I'm being realistic with my target for qualifying which could see a bit of a shakeup."

"I think once we get the weight out after race one we can start to attack. Carrying weight in qualifying and race one will be tough with the amount of slow second gear corners accelerating up to sixth gear at Oulton, so the meeting could be wide open.

"I think the rules put us experienced guys under more pressure, which some handle better than others. The public and TV audiences want to see us pushed out our comfort zones, so you have to say it's worked and a positive."

Whilst Turkington and arch rival Jason Plato have been strong challengers to Honda so far this season, Matt reckons there will be many others in this mix this June: "I don't think the MG guys are realising their true potential yet, and amongst a heap of others young Josh Cook is looking pretty racey, so there's plenty to give us a hard time."

Tickets for the BTCC at Oulton Park on 6/7 June are available in advance from £26, with free entry for children under 13. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.