BTCC 2017: Round Nine race report
Silverstone | 16-17 September
Matt Neal lit up the ninth round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone, with the three-time title-holder storming through the pack from 12th on the grid to rack up his 61st career triumph in the third race of the day.
At the celebrated ‘Home of British Motor Racing’, Neal qualified fourth in his Honda Civic Type R; Halfords Yuasa Racing teammate Gordon Shedden was just 0.165 seconds behind despite carrying 57kg of ballast.
In the first race, Neal emerged unscathed from a multi-car scrap for fourth, but contact with Mat Jackson saw him slip outside of the top ten. Even so, he went on to cross the finish line 13th, two places behind Shedden.
In race two, Shedden went on the offensive. The defending champion posted the fastest lap on his way to seventh. His teammate, meanwhile, struggled for pace on his harder-compound tyres and had to recover from a wild slide on the opener to make up seven places and finish 13th.
But there would be no stopping the Midlander in the finale, when Neal proved the potential of the Civic Type R by picking off his rivals one-by-one. By lap 16, he was up into second, and after shadowing Rob Huff for five laps, his sustained pressure paid off and he secured the victory.
“Our car is really strong through the quick stuff, so I knew where I had to attack [Rob Huff], but after trying it two or three times, he seemed to have it covered,” Neal said. “Then he ran about half-a-metre wide and I got my nose up the inside and thought, ‘gotcha!’”
The win is Neal’s second of 2017.
There was less joy for Shedden, who in the final race found himself unceremoniously dumped out of contention by Rob Austin while in the mix for a podium finish. “It was like bumper cars out there, with some crazy moves being pulled,” he said. “Although I’m mathematically still just in the title fight, realistically it’s not going to happen this year. But that won’t stop me from pushing flat-out at Brands Hatch to finish the season on a high!”
The season finale will take place at Brands Hatch from 30 September to 1 October, and there’s an outside chance Flash could retain his hard-fought Drivers’ crown.