Matt Neal kept a cool head to win race one at Thruxton from Colin Turkington and Dan Cammish in third. Neal remained largely unchallenged throughout the race in a controlled drive in hot conditions.
Neal got off to a good start, but as expected so did Colin Turkington from second on the grid. Turkington tried to hang it around the outside at Allard’s but as they headed into the Complex for the first time, Neal just let off the brakes meaning Turkington had to yield to the Halfords Yuasa Racing man.
Third place starter Brett Smith got a dreadful start and dropped to eighth position by the end of lap one. Andrew Jordan got off to a great start from eighth on the grid to go up to fourth. Adam Morgan slid up the inside of Ciceley Racing teammate Tom Oliphant into Church to gab fifteenth place.
It didn’t take too long for Neal to stretch his legs, absolutely smashing the race lap record of Yuvan Muller from 2002 with a lap time of 1.17.270. Turkington was keeping with Neal’s pace though, looking very quick.
Josh Cook grabbed eleventh place from Rob Collard as the pair headed into Church on lap three.
After his demon start, Andrew Jordan was starting to struggle in his Pirtek Racing BMW losing fourth place to Sam Tordoff who then proceeded to chase after Dan Cammish who was running third. Jordan was then starting to come under pressure from Tom Chilton.
BTC Norlin Racing driver Chris Smiley passed Brett Smith for eighth on the fifth lap as Brett looked like the great pace he showed in qualifying had gone.
Drama came on lap five for Championship leader Tom Ingram who lost battery power and had to retire to the pitlane. This means that he will be ballast free for the second race, however, he will have to start from dead last and thirty-second on the capacity grid.
As they headed into half-race distance, Neal continued to hold the lead from Turkington, with Dan Cammish coming under increasing pressure from Sam Tordoff. Meanwhile, Brett Smith regained eighth spot from Chris Smiley as they went into the chicane.
After being stuck behind Andrew Jordan for a few laps, Tom Chilton finally got past the struggling BMW driver who seemed to be dropping off even more. Senna Procter then went on the attack, flashing his lights in frustration as he tried desperately to get past the increasingly wide BMW of Jordan.
Further down the field, Aiden Moffat went up the inside of Mike Bushell into Church to grab eighteenth position. Michael Caine tagged Tom Boardman in the chicane on lap fourteen ripping the left rear wheel off Boardman’s car and lifting his own bonnet up.
However, the race belonged to Matt Neal who kept a cool head to win from Colin Turkington with Dan Cammish coming home third holding off Sam Tordoff who claimed the Independent win.
Speaking after the race, Matt Neal said, “That one was for Henry – Henry Hope-Frost, so we had the ‘fever’ today. It’s a special one for us, our first win with the new Type-R and one hundred years of Yuasa.”
He admitted, “I didn’t expect it with him (Colin Turkington), his tyres have got to go off any second, but he kept me honest all the way. I had one of the best starts I have had for a couple of years, I think the warm weather helped us and suited us to get the power down with the front wheel drive. I just managed to hold him off around the outside into turn one.”
He continued, “We knew we’d be pretty good over a race distance, but I thought Colin (Turkington) would come back at us. One of the strengths we’ve got with the new Type-R is the speed through the quick corners out the back and I thought if I could get him (Colin Turkington) then I could hold him and just keep him there till the end.”
Second place man Colin Turkington commented, “No British Touring Car race is easy, and you take nothing for granted. But in all truthfulness, that’s a great start to my day, the BMW was very good over the race distance, but just as we headed into three-quarters race distance, I just didn’t have the rear stability and he (Matt Neal) just started to leave me behind in the quicker corners. I kept pushing till the last lap but not enough in that race. We’ll look forward to the next one.”
He continued, “It’s a real kick start, everybody knows to win the Championship you have to be consistent and score points and uncharacteristically, that’s what we haven’t been doing. It’s been very much up and down, so hopefully we can build a base from here.”
Third place man Dan Cammish said, “Matt’s pole lap yesterday was something special – it certainly taught me a thing or two, so I had a good look at it last night and did a good job I think today. It’s not the type of place you want to be under pressure but Sam (Tordoff) was really quick towards the end and I had to dig deep. It’s great for Honda Yuasa Racing, one and three a great start to the weekend, we’ll build from here.”
Tom Ingram continues to lead the Championship and holds a slender five-point gap to Adam Morgan in second. That win for Matt Neal hoists him up to eighth just four points behind Colin Turkington in seventh. Dan Cammish sits fourth after his consistent start to the campaign.
By Jordan Hollands
Pictures courtesy of the British Touring Car Championship