BTCC 2018 Season Round-Up
This year's British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) came to a close at Brands Hatch at the end of September, and the final race of 2018 also brought the curtain down on the first season for Dan Cammish racing alongside Matt Neal in the latest Honda Civic Type R for the Halfords Yuasa Racing team.
The 2018 BTCC season was made up of ten events that started at Brands Hatch on 8th April and concluded, once again at Brands Hatch, on 30th September. Each weekend's racing featured 3 separate races, so the season is made up of 30 races in total.
Matt and Dan recently sat down together to take look back over their 2018 season, and to look forward to doing it all again next year.
8th April: Brands Hatch Indy
After a good pre-season of testing in Spain ahead of the 2018 BTCC season, rookie Dan had a better opening weekend than seasoned Honda driver Matt. It wasn't only Dan who was making a debut at Brand Hatch on the opening weekend though, as the FK8 Honda Civic Type R that he and Matt were driving was also making its first appearance in the series. Dan took an impressive eighth-place finish in the opening race as Matt failed to finish, and Dan also finished ahead of his teammate in the remaining two races of the day.
On top of the encouraging finishing positions, Dan also took the lead in Jack Sears Trophy for debuting drivers and even broke the Brands Hatch Indy circuit lap record during qualifying. Unfortunately, the lap didn’t land Dan pole position as it turned out the Yorkshireman had passed through a red light in the pit lane and therefore had to do it over again and eventually started fourth on the grid.
28th – 29th April: Donington Park
Matt Neal had a better time of things at Donington Park, finishing all three races in 6th, 16th and 7th positions respectively. Dan had to retire in the third race of the day, but that was only after achieving a podium finish in the first race of the weekend which was only his fourth race as a BTCC rookie. Dan made light work of the weekend's changeable weather to take fourth place on the grid, and that led to him finishing the first race second only to race-winner Josh Cook. Despite only managing 17th place on the starting grid, three-times BTCC Champion Matt Neal showed the potential of the new Civic Type R by cutting through the opposition to finish sixth in the opening race. The impressive performance of both drivers over the weekend saw their Halfords Yuasa Racing team jump from 13th to fourth place in the Teams' Championship standings after this second weekend of the season.
20th May: Thruxton
Not to be upstaged by new teammate Dan Cammish, Matt Neal showed his class at Thruxton by taking pole position and his and the team's first win of the season in the first race of round 3. That first race was quite a moment for both the Honda Civic and the Halfords Yuasa Racing team as Dan also claimed a place on the podium by finishing third. It really was the Matt Neal show as the formidable racer even smashed his own lap record around what is the fastest circuit in the UK.
Speaking about Thruxton, Neal says: "Thruxton's always a special one for us, isn’t it? It's like a home Grand Prix with the Civic being made in Swindon. It's the home for Honda manufacturing and it's just around the corner." Of the qualifying lap, Matt added: "The qualifying lap? I don’t know where it came from. We smashed the lap record, which is a testament to the new car with the aero on it."
Matt admitted if he was going to get one pole position and win during the year he would choose Thruxton, which is especially good news as two rounds will be held at the circuit next year during the 2019 season.
"We smashed the lap record, which is a testament to the new car"
- Matt Neal
10th June: Oulton Park
Oulton Park was another good weekend for Matt Neal as he took his third podium in just five races with a second place finish in the second race. Neal also claimed fifth place in the first race and the impressive points haul took Halfords Yuasa Racing into second place in the Teams' standings, and put Honda firmly into the hunt for the Manufacturers' Championship. Dan Cammish had what can probably be described as a consistent weekend by finishing in 13th and 12th places in the first two races at Oulton Park. Dan must have had high hopes of further improvement in the final race of the weekend, but an early puncture put paid to those hopes as 22nd was the best that could be managed in the circumstances.
24th June: Croft
Croft was another good event for Matt Neal, and his increasingly impressive driving over the three races saw him propelled to third place in the Drivers' Championship and brought about increased hopes of a potential fourth BTCC title. Despite Croft being home turf for Cammish, the Yorkshireman found the going tough with a tenth place finish in the third race the best he could manage in this fifth event of the 2018 season. But combined with Neal's finishes in 9th, 7th and 4th places, the weekend came to a close with the team strengthening its hold on second in the Team competition, and Honda climbing to second in the Manufacturers' table.
28th – 29th July: Snetterton
Snetterton saw a welcome return to form for Dan Cammish with a third place podium finish in the first of the three races, which was followed up by fourth place in the next race. It was another example of Dan's prowess in the wet as weather conditions were seriously challenging and changeable. Matt had a couple of fairly average results in those two races, but he smashed it out of the park as they say in the third race. This one was the 'Diamond Double,' which was a one-off, 60-mile, ballast-free and double points race announced ahead of the 2018 season getting under way. This was the race everyone wanted to win, but after securing second place on the grid a special qualifying on Saturday, Matt took the lead on lap nine and never let his lead slip. While Goff and Ingram in more powerful cars fought each other for second place, Matt took the opportunity to secure what was the 63rd win of his BTCC career.
Matt said of the race: "It was a horrible day for me to start with. I don’t know why, but I've struggled a little in the damp conditions with the FK8 this year. And who knew what tyres to start on as it the cloud was coming over, then it was drizzling, and then it wasn't. I got in the lead and it the drizzle started to come harder, so I got on the radio and said forget this; it's not going to happen. Until I saw the chequered flag I never thought it was going to happen."
11th – 12th August: Rockingham
Despite such a good showing at Snetterton, strong racing in the midfield positions and a forced change of engine after qualifying contributed to a difficult meeting for Matt Neal at Rockingham. Although only finishing a second slower than pole position, the closeness of the competition meant it was only good enough for 29th place on the grid. Matt's best finish was 14th in race two, which left Dan Cammish as the only one of the pair to land a top ten finish with a creditable fifth place in the first race.
"Until I saw the chequered flag I never thought it was going to happen."
- Matt Neal
25th – 26th August: Knockhill
Knockhill saw Dan taking the initiative with two third place podium finishes in the opening two races after securing an impressive pole position on the grid in qualifying. This is a circuit that undeniably favours rear-wheel drive cars, so Dan's efforts that kept Honda's proud record of a podium finish at Knockhill every year since 2009 in tact were especially welcome and impressive. Unsurprisingly, debutante Cammish was also the top front-wheel drive competitor at Knockhill this year.
15th – 16th September: Silverstone
In terms of finishing positions in the three races at Silverstone, this weekend wasn't one to remember for Matt Neal or Dan Cammish. However, the penultimate weekend of the season certainly wasn't a write-off as Dan secured an unassailable lead in the Jack Sears Trophy and Honda held onto second place in the Manufacturers' Championship. After having to retire in the first race at the previous round at Knockhill, Neal suffered the same fate in race one here at Silverstone. Both drivers showed character and finished strongly in the third race though, with Cammish finishing eighth and Neal in seventh position.
30th September: Brand Hatch GP
If ever there was a case of saving the best until last, this 2018 season finale at Brands Hatch was a great example from Matt, Dan, Halfords Yuasa Racing and the Honda Civic Type R (FK8). As if a one-two finish in race one wasn't enough, Dan and Matt followed it up with exactly the same result in the second race of the weekend. And it was BTCC rookie Dan Cammish who took his first two race victories to finish off the 2018 season in incredible style, and lay the foundations for what has the potential to be a season to remember in 2019.
Speaking of getting his first win, Dan says: "It was a massive relief actually. A couple of time this year I've put it on the front row to wake up to rain and thought we'd be ok, but not as good as we could be. It was therefore great to wake up to a dry day, on a soft tyre, as well around a circuit I love." Dan added: "To be honest, I kind of knew I was going to win before I even started. I had every belief in myself, although I almost made of a mess of it by not jumping the start, because that's not what I did."
Cammish was going to be disqualified from his initial race at first, but eventually the result was allowed to stand with a little help from teammate Matt Neal. Neal admitted: "I was up with Alan Gow (BTCC Administrator) pleading with him, saying you've got to help us out here." Matt added: "It's the first time I've ever been pleading not to be given a race."