Neal finished the BTCC's final race of the season at Silverstone in eighth – two places ahead of the only driver who could have beaten him to the title, his Honda Racing team-mate Gordon Shedden. It means Neal has lifted the BTCC crown for the third time in his career. Neal commented: “I’m overwhelmed – I never thought I’d win it once in my life and now it’s three. It means the world to me.
“If it had gone Gordon’s way I’d have been disappointed for me but over the moon for him. I have to say he is the ultimate team-mate and so hard – he’s only been in this game for six years and he is one of the absolute best out there on the track – and that’s why this has been the toughest of my three titles to win.
“But it’s not just me who has won this title – it is everybody in the Honda team who give so much to their BTCC campaign.”
Fife racer Shedden added: “I’m getting closer – third last year, second this… maybe it’s my turn next year. It’s see-sawed so much between us and other drivers over the course of the season. It really could have gone any way but it was to be Matt’s year and I’m very happy for him.”
Tom Chilton won the race – his second victory of 2011 – in Team Aon’s Ford Focus. Second was 2010 Champion Jason Plato in his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze and third, achieving his third outright podium result of the season, Tom Boardman in his Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon.
Chilton said: “What a great way to end our first year with the new Global Ford Focus. Jason kept me honest throughout but the car felt great from the start and I always felt comfortable even though he was constantly there in my mirrors.”
Meanwhile Plato’s team-mate Alex MacDowall finished the third race in fourth ahead of Andrew Jordan, fifth in his Pirtek Racing Vauxhall Vectra. Sixth having muscled past both Honda drivers and then, in the late stages, Aon’s Tom Onslow-Cole was Rob Austin in his Audi A4.
Onslow-Cole took seventh ahead of Neal and Frank Wrathall who forced his Dynojet Toyota Avensis past Shedden for ninth a couple of laps from home.
James Nash, who sewed up the Independents Trophy earlier, and Mat Jackson were two of the regular front-runners to hit trouble after their 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra and Airwaves Racing Ford Focus had been fighting over ninth position. Nash was ordered to serve a drive-through pit lane penalty for exceeding the track limits while Jackson lost time with a quick pit stop to have his car’s bonnet repaired.
Robert Collard finished a lap down in 23rd also after a pit stop to check over his WSR BMW after it had survived a wild high-speed spin along the start-finish straight following a clash with Wrathall’s Toyota.
Among the retirements were Boardman’s team-mate Dave Newsham who’d been well up the order early on before his SEAT slowed with damage following contact with a rival’s car.