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Double podium for reigning champ
1:00pm Tuesday 17th April 2012 in Local By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
REIGNING champion Matt Neal is only four points behind leader Jason Plato following an action-packed Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship meeting at Donington Park.
Neal claimed third place in the first race and second in race two behind Honda Yuasa Racing Team colleague Gordon Shedden, briefly sending him to the top of standings, before crashing out in the third.
It leaves the Worcestershire driver on 80 points heading into rounds seven, eight and nine at Thruxton on April 28 and 29.
A successful meeting for the Pershore-based team also saw Shedden add a runner-up spot in race one to his victory ahead of Neal in the second, while the Scot was also credited with the last having originally finished third.
Initial winner Mat Jackson’s Ford Focus was found to have exceeded turbo boost limits and Plato, originally second, was given a time penalty for bumping Shedden off the track at the final bend.
Neal, from Shenstone, said: “Everything was going great until race three — a third in race one and then a great result for Honda in race two.
“But race three showed just how quickly it can all change in the BTCC and now I find myself chasing Jason again as we go to Thruxton.
“But the main thing is we’re still right in the hunt and my Honda won’t have quite so much success ballast to deal with as his MG around there.”
Neal, however, remains frustrated at what he sees as unfair restrictions being placed on the team’s Honda Civic turbo engine by race organisers.
The 45-year-old added: “The Honda is the best engine in the championship and they freely admit that, that’s why they make us run less boost than anyone else. Why are we the slowest in the speed traps then?”
Elsewhere at Donington, Pershore rivals Rob Austin Racing endured a rotten time after seeing two engines blow up.
Having qualified in eighth for the first race, Austin’s Audi A4 suffered engine failure and had to be replaced overnight.
However, the spare lasted only six laps of race one, forcing the 31-year-old, the team’s only driver following the withdrawal of Mark Hazell, to retire.
But Austin vowed: “When life knocks you down, get up and change up a gear. Myself and all the team will go at Thruxton as hard as we can with a do or die, first or last mentality.”
Rob Austin Racing were also one of three teams given verbal warnings for moving their cars into their pit garages without permission before the qualifying session had ended at Donington Park meeting.
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