Matt Neal: “We just didn’t have the luck”
Matt Neal says he feels confident that Team Dynamics is “in a good place” with the FK8 Honda Civic Type R despite a tough start to the new BTCC season at Brands Hatch.
Neal had qualified inside the top six in difficult conditions on Saturday afternoon but his hopes of forward progress in race one were hit by the decision to run wet tyres – which ultimately proved to be the wrong one.
Despite that, Neal rescued a top eight finish and then managed to take eleventh in race two – which put him on pole for the final race of the weekend.
Although he lost the lead early on to the fast-starting BMW of Stephen Jelley, Neal got back into top spot before contact from Tom Chilton at Clearways saw him lose the lead.
Further contact from Jelley at Graham Hill Bend then damaged the rear suspension of the Honda which gave way going into Paddock Hill for the final time; with the triple champion dragging his ailing car to the line in eighth.
It means Neal sits eighth in the early season standings, 22 points down on leader Josh Cook.
“It’s a weekend of what might have been,” he said. “In the opening race, everyone at the front who had something to lose went with the sensible tyre choice; it was those further back who were able to roll the dice. We got what we could from that, and then in race two we picked up what we could.
“Everyone struggled on the soft tyre this weekend but I’m sure we could have won race three with it. The car was loose as hell at the start but when it settled down, it felt great and I knew we just needed to keep things tight.
“The first hit [from Chilton] cost us the lead and then the second one [from Jelley] damaged the suspension. Although he gave us the place back, it left us as walking wounded and I couldn’t push as hard but I thought the suspension would last when it was okay for a few laps. Sadly, it gave up a mile too early!
“The positive is that the car feels great and we’re in a good place. To win this championship you need luck and we just didn’t have it this weekend, but that means we’ll be light when we get to Donington Park and I’m looking forward to it.”