Neal wins Race 3 to regain BTCC lead

Matt Neal won Sunday’s third Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent to regain the championship lead.

Starting fourth on the grid, Neal was quickly into the lead, followed by Honda Racing team-mate Gordon Shedden.

The pair went on to finish first and second in their Civics – swapping positions briefly at mid-distance to allow Shedden to score a vital bonus point for leading the race. Neal also set the race’s fastest lap.

James Nash finished third in his 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra and in doing so has opened back up his advantage at the top of the Independents Trophy.

The two Ford Focus of Team Aon’s Tom Chilton and Airwaves Racing’s Mat Jackson were fourth and fifth. Jason Plato, winner of the day’s opening two races, took sixth in his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze.

The result means that an unprecedented five drivers – Neal, Plato, Shedden, Jackson and Nash – will all go to Silverstone’s Finals Day fixture in two weeks (15-16 October) with a chance of winning the BTCC title. Forty-four points cover them with a maximum of 52 available from the season finale, their respective tallies being: Neal, 225; Plato and Shedden, 220; Jackson, 189; Nash, 181.

The Independents Trophy title will also be decided between Nash and Jackson at the Northants circuit. Just 17 points separate them with a possible 45 still to play for…

For Neal and Shedden their 1-2 result came as a big relief after they’d both suffered punctures in the day’s earlier race and then collected, by their standards, lowly seventh and eighth place finishes in the second encounter.

Worcestershire’s Neal commented: “It’s been a very tough day so to end on a high like this is very welcome. Going back to the top of the table means my car will start the Silverstone weekend with maximum ballast but I’d rather have the points in the bag any day.”

Fife’s Shedden added: “Results really weren’t coming our way so this is just the lift we needed. I’m slightly annoyed with myself for losing a bit of time at the start but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

And said Buckinghamshire’s Nash: “It’s not been the best of days but this result is a big boost. Mat had cut some of my lead in the Independents in the first two races, but I’ve managed to stretch it out a bit again which could prove vital.”

Completing the race’s top ten were Chilton’s team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole, Andrew Jordan (Pirtek Racing Vectra), Tom Boardman (Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon) and Nick Foster (WSR BMW).

Notably, there was disappointment for Aon’s Andy Neate who’d impressively taken the fight to the Honda drivers in the opening stages before eventually dropping away and then running wide off the track and retiring in the pit lane. As he’d rejoined the track at Stirling’s Bend several drivers had to swerve to avoid his Focus, this allowing the opportunistic Plato who had been in eighth to wriggle through the chaos and move up to his eventual sixth place.

Paul O’Neill was also out of luck. He’d been challenging Nash for third only to suddenly slow with a broken drivetrain on his with tech-speed Chevrolet Cruze. Foster’s team-mate Robert Collard, having made up ten spots after starting from a lowly 22nd on the grid, ended his race in the gravel trap at Clark Curve.

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