Wednesday, October 17 2012
Reigning Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal knows that he faces a tough task to hold onto his crown at this weekend's title decider, which takes place on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit (20/21 October). However he refuses to give up on his own ambitions, despite pledging support to Honda Racing team mate Gordon Shedden.
"In one respect I want to support Flash (Shedden)," promised Neal. "But in the other I was only three points behind before Silverstone with the turbo boost restrictions on the cars. There are a lot of points on offer and I've got my eyes on the bigger picture, but we'll give it all we've got. We'll see how qualifying goes on Saturday and talk about it then. It'll play out either way but we'll be doing it for Honda."
Neal's personal ambitions will certainly make it tough for Honda to cover arch rival Plato, especially if the three-time champion is out front. "It all depends on how it pans out," he countered. "Gordon can afford to finish behind Jason, whereas he has to attack. We have a clean outlook and that's how we'll play it. We're in a better position with a strong car, so it's down to Jason."
Neal's experience at Silverstone clearly still rankles with him. Three retirements and no points for the defending champion made his task a lot tougher and he's aware of the part reliability has to play. "The turbo wastegate was a TOCA part and those we can't predict," he warned. "We'll have brand new parts for the weekend. In races two and three someone drove into me - in the second race it broke the exhaust, causing the fire. We should be further up front at Brands Hatch, at Silverstone we couldn't get away from the other cars."
However he's also aware that he's not alone when it comes to bad luck and has clearly lost none of his fighting spirit. "We've just got to beat the MGs and whilst I'm confident we should have a strong package, they have got faster through the season. If Jason hadn't crashed so much and had so many issues he should have wrapped up the title. I'm ready and I'm not giving any quarter."
So Neal is ready to make history and become the first man other than Andy Rouse to hold four BTCC titles. But the team game is never far from his mind: "Last year it was great winning for the third time, but I knew what it meant to Flash - we're close team mates. It would be a dream come true and I'll give it everything I've got but he is our best chance of winning. It would be like Christmas if Flash wins and I'm part of it, then we can come back next year with two champions in the team."
Tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on 20/21 October are available from £25, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.