Neal makes good start in touring car opener

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ALL SMILES: Worcestershire driver Matt Neal finished on the podium in two of the first three races of the British Touring Car Championship season at Brands Hatch. P

First published in Sport

PROMISING results for Honda duo Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden has left just nine points separating the top five drivers following the opening weekend of the British Touring Car Championship.

Worcestershire ace Neal recorded third, fourth and second place finishes from the three races at Brands Hatch in his Honda Civic Tourer, while team-mate Shedden was fourth, second and sixth at the Kent track.

Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan enjoyed a stellar start to his title defence by scoring lights-to-flag victories in the opening two races.

But the reigning champion didn’t have it all his own way as the eBay Motors BMW of Colin Turkington took the honours in the final thrilling encounter. There were also two podium places for the MG KX of Jason Plato.

Neal said: “It’s the first time an estate car has scored a podium in the BTCC. We really peppered the top step of the podium but not quite made it there.

"To get three podiums from the Tourer in its first weekend is fantastic though – both Flash (Shedden) and I were up there in all three races, which is what we wanted to do this weekend.

"I’m over the moon with how it has gone. It was so exciting and close right the way to the last corner."

Shedden added: "This is day one with our new Honda Civic Tourer and we are on the podium. Everyone else had better watch out as the year goes on.”

Rob Austin Racing, based next to the Honda garage on the Pershore Trading Estate, endured mixed results at Brands.

Principal Rob Austin's Audi A4 finished fifth in the first race but broke down in the second, before returning to take 11th in the third.

New team-mate Hunter Abbott was 18th in the first two races and 15th in the third.

Starting from pole position in races one and two, Jordan fended off separate challenges in his Honda Civic from Plato in the first and Shedden in the second.

Despite growing pressure in each, Jordan produced mature drives in both to take the wins and put himself in an early lead of the standings.

Neal claimed the first ever BTCC podium for an estate-style car when he hauled his all-new machine to third place in race one.

The championship heads to Donington Park on Sunday, April 20.

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