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BTCC triple champ Neal ready to fight at Brands this weekend

Tuesday, March 28 2017

Triple Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal embarks upon his 26th year in the series at Brands Hatch this weekend (1/2 April), and the Honda man remains as motivated as ever.

Matt's only missed out on one title showdown in the last seven seasons, and led Honda's title attack for much of 2016 before an electrical issue and subsequent shunt put him out of the finale. Nevertheless he was pleased that team-mate Gordon Shedden won the championship.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Matt about the new season. "The car feels good, but the field looks strong. We're running the same cars in the same shape and everything we've run for a couple of years now. We haven't been standing still over Christmas and the winter, but the nature of the regulations are very restrictive, so no-one's going to find massive leaps."

Matt's typically pragmatic about the opposition, and two teams in particular. "We don't know Subaru, they've been the dark horse again; no-one's been against them in testing, so who knows? BMW we know will be strong, I must admit we weren't chuffed to see that they've got a very strong driver line-up with Turkington, Jordan and Collard. They should have had it last year, but I think Flash was just hungrier in the last race."

Shedden's title means that the Honda team-mates are equal on three championships apiece, with both also having successfully defended a title. "Yes, the first time in history I think, I can't believe that's happened," said Matt. "We have a good rivalry anyway and we had a good race last year. It could have gone either way, so I'm feeling full of beans and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Last December Matt celebrated his 50th birthday, but he isn't ready to back off the throttle just yet. "That doesn't bother me in the slightest, to be fair," he said. "It actually invigorates me because I don't think there's any driver in history over the age of 50 to win it. That's a new challenge for me, so I'm taking the positives out of it rather than the negatives."

Matt's first race after hitting his half-century is at Brands Hatch, where he has won over a dozen times in his BTCC career. "It's been a good hunting ground for me over the years," he said, adding: "But also I've had some rotten luck here like in the last rounds last year with the car failure, so we'll see. You just need lady luck on your side, and that goes for the whole year. I always said I'll swap luck for talent any day of the week!

"I'm looking forward to a good internal fight amongst the other Hondas and we're going to be working as a team and working hard, trying to retain that number one trophy."

Tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch on 1/2 April are available from £27, with free entry for under-13s. For more information or to book, call 0843 453 9000 or click here.