Matt Neal has hailed his victory in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s Diamond Double at Snetterton this past weekend (July 28/29) as one of the best of his career.
On what was a milestone weekend for the series as it continued its 60th Anniversary celebrations, the Halfords Yuasa Racing driver once again wrote his name into the history books with a 63rd BTCC victory.
Instead of the customary reverse grid format for race three at the Norfolk venue, round 18 was to be a 60-mile, 20-lap race where all cars would run without success ballast and on the same tyre. More importantly that than, double championship points were also on offer.
Having qualified in second place in the second of two qualifying sessions on Saturday, the triple-champion served up a masterful performance at the wheel of his Honda Civic Type R.
Chasing the WIX Racing with Eurotech Honda of Jack Goff, Neal took the lead on lap nine when a brief rain shower caught out Goff, sending him wide at the Wilson hairpin and allowing Neal to make the pass down the inside.
Despite coming under race-long pressure from Goff and the charging Tom Ingram, the 51-year-old used of all experience to power towards the chequered flag to take yet another famous victory.
“What a fantastic race,” Neal enthused. “To produce a result like we have done on a completely level playing field is testament to all of the hard work that everyone at Halfords Yuasa Racing has put in and underlines how strong this new Type R is.
“We qualified well but with the drizzle I wasn’t quite sure how we would fair - I was expecting us to go backwards at a million miles an hour. The car was really loose on the opening laps but it settled down soon after and I was able to push on a little bit more from then on.
“I was running halfway between a dry and full wet brake setting and that worked well for me. Both myself and Jack were strong in different areas but he was caught out a little bit by the rain at the hairpin, that opened the door for me and I was able to take the lead from there. Jack and Tom though both hounded right until the end.”
Since 1991, Neal has been a permanent fixture of the BTCC and in that time he has enjoyed some memorable moments. From becoming the first Independent driver to win a race outright and scooping £250,000 from Alan Gow in 1999 to his trio of championship wins, Neal has continued to add to his ledger as being one of the all-time greats in the series.
Basking in the glory of winning the coveted Diamond Double, Neal admits that his latest triumph ranks right up there as one of his best BTCC wins.
“I was hoping Alan was going to present me with another cheque when I got onto the podium,” Neal joked. “I’m not to sure where I am going to put this big trophy though, I think it will go in the workshop with the boys as they have earned it just as much as me.
“The BTCC has been my life so to win this race is so special, it was our day! There have been some highs and lows down the years but this is definitely up there as being one of the best achievements I have had in the BTCC.”
Virtue of his historic victory, Neal remains third in the overall standings, trailing new leader Ingram by just 16 points.
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship continues its 2018 campaign in under two weeks times on August 11/12, with Rockingham playing host to rounds 19, 20 & 21.