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Honda's Neal heads official test ahead of Brands BTCC opener

Tuesday, March 22 2016

Honda's Matt Neal topped the times at the official Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship test today (Tuesday), ahead of next weekend's (2/3 April) opening rounds at Brands Hatch, whilst MG's rookie Ashley Sutton surprised with the second fastest time.

The Halfords-liveried Honda of Neal headed the order at Donington Park, eight tenths of a second faster than team-mate and reigning champion Gordon Shedden, who could only manage 16th place. Behind Neal, Clio Cup Champion Sutton delighted his MG team by lapping the circuit just nine hundredths slower than the leading Honda Civic Type R.

Fan favourite Rob Austin was third in the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis, just over a tenth ahead of Speedworks Motorsport's Tom Ingram. The second MG of Josh Cook was fifth, boosting the Triple Eight-run team's hopes for the season, having not tested until today.

The Civic Type R's of Eurotech's Martin Depper and Jeff Smith were seventh and eighth respectively, ahead of Adam Morgan's WIX Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Mat Jackson was ninth in the Motorbase Ford Focus, with Sam Tordoff's WSR BMW tenth.

With teams running a variety of setup configurations, it's hard to draw conclusions from the times, but several teams and drivers will be encouraged, including BKR's Aron Smith in 11th with the VW CC, and Jake Hill, 24th in the Team HARD Toyota.

Whilst aiming to be fastest at Brands Hatch next weekend, Neal was unable to predict the opening round form after the test: "Who knows, it all moves every winter," he said. "[We have a] new engine and all new TOCA components. We got the jump on everyone for the last five-year cycle, and we're starting again, so that's a very good question. I wouldn't like to bet on it!"

A total of 25 cars contested today's test, the most notable absence being the Subaru Levorgs, however Jason Plato and Colin Turkington are expected to be ready to shake their cars down in preparation for the opening rounds over the coming days. Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher was also unable to test, so his form remains unknown ahead of round one.

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship official test
1, Matt Neal, Halfords Yuasa Racing, Honda Civic Type R, 1:10.140s
2, Ashley Sutton, MG Racing RCIB Insurance, MG6 GT, +0.091s
3, Rob Austin, Handy Motorsport, Toyota Avensis, +0.157s
4, Tom Ingram, Speedworks Motorsport, Toyota Avensis, +0.172s
5, Josh Cook, MG Racing RCIB Insurance, MG6 GT, +0.198s
6, Martin Depper, Eurotech Racing, Honda Civic Type R, +0.302s
7, Jeff Smith, Eurotech Racing, Honda Civic Type R, +0.303s
8, Adam Morgan, WIX Racing, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, +0.313s
9, Mat Jackson, Motorbase, Ford Focus, +0.416s
10, Sam Tordoff, Team JCT600 with GuardX, BMW 125i M-Sport, +0.417s

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.