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Honda's champions expect tough BTCC fight at Brands Hatch

Thursday, March 31 2016

Reigning Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Honda is the team to beat at Brands Hatch this weekend (2/3 April), but both Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden are taking nothing for granted in the opening three rounds.

Triple champion Neal is taking a cautious line, predicting that the new suspension system that almost all of the grid will be running could throw up a few surprises. "Who knows," he said when pushed to predict a winner. "It all moves every winter; the engine regulations change again, all new TOCA [standard] components. We got the jump on everyone for the last five-year cycle, and we're starting again, so I wouldn't like to bet on it!"

Team-mate and reigning champion Shedden expands on Neal's point about engines, especially with the team running a new unit. "It's a new engine this year, very new technology from Honda," he said. "It's taking a little bit of working out if I'm honest, but it's got all the ingredients to be great.

"I don't think anybody knows where anybody is until you get here for qualifying on the Saturday at Brands Hatch."

There's also a third car for the returning Andy Neate. "It'll be interesting," Neal said. "Obviously we get limited track time, so it'll be another set of data to call on and it'll be another ally on the grid we can call on and work together with. Hopefully we can all get some wins."

But all eyes will be on the Honda team-mates and Neal's well aware that Shedden is catching up to his three titles. "That Scotsman's fast in everything he sits in at the moment, I think if he went shopping he'd be fast round the aisles!"

Despite Neal's 50th birthday on the horizon and son Henry winning races in the MINI Challenge, the BTCC legend is not giving up just yet. "I think I've still got a few fast laps left in me, I've just got to dig them out," he said, but having taken on more management responsibility with the team he did add: "Who knows...nothing lasts forever, and you can't do it forever, but I'm loving it and loving being here. You look to the future, and they're hungry, both him and his brother, so it'll be interesting to see how it pans out."

Neal's much more certain about the immediate future, however, and pushed for a prediction on this weekend, his answer was confident and direct:" A Honda 1-2-3, obviously!"

Tickets for the opening rounds of the BTCC at Brands Hatch on 2/3 April are available in advance from £27, with free entry for under-13s. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.