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I haven’t given up on the British touring car title – Matt Neal
4:00pm Saturday 20th October 2012 in Worcester Wolves By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
MATT Neal insists he has not given up on becoming only the second person to win the British Touring Car Championship four times.
The Worcestershire driver, who won the title last year and in 2005 and 2006, heads to this weekend’s finale at Brands Hatch as one of four racers in contention for the crown.
Third-placed Neal is 31 points behind Honda Yuasa Racing team-mate Gordon Shedden, who tops the standings 15 ahead of MG KX Momentum Racing’s Jason Plato.
With 67 points still up for grabs from Sunday’s three races, Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Honda Civic is also in the mix although he is 61 adrift of Shedden.
Neal, still nursing a broken hand sustained in a motorbike accident last month, accepts it is odds-against a fourth crown, previously achieved by Andy Rouse in 1975, 1983, 1984 and 1985, after three retirements at Silverstone earlier this month.
But he is ready to give it his all as he chases a place among motorsport’s elite.
“There’s no way I’m giving up on defending my title and, after a tough time at Silverstone which we didn’t deserve, I’m really fired up,” the Shenstone-based driver said. “I’ll have less success ballast in my car and hopefully that might give me a small edge.
“Anything can happen – look at me at Silverstone. Those results took me from rank favourite to rank outsider in one meeting.
“I think the car should be strong there, the weather forecast isn’t brilliant but I don’t think that will hinder us.”
With Shedden currently in pole position for the title, Neal also knows he may have to become a team player in order to secure success for Pershore Trading Estate-based Honda.
The 45-year-old added: “Our chief objective is to get a Honda over the line first and Gordon should be the priority because of his stronger position. One of us has got to win and it could come to the point where I have to help Gordon. I have got to be mindful of that.”
Shedden, aiming to be the first Scottish winner since John Cleland in 1995, said: “I’m feeling relaxed and actually quietly confident. Silverstone was our car’s bogey circuit and we came out of it still ahead. I’d rather have the points in the bag any day of the week.”
Meanwhile, fellow Pershore-based team Rob Austin Racing have changed their name to Wixracing.co.uk for the season finale following a one-off sponsorship deal with the filter firm.
Their Audi A4s will also feature the company’s distinctive black and yellow livery.