Honda Civic BTCC Matt Neal (c) BTCC

BTCC thrills at sunny Thruxton

The BTCC circus moved to Thruxton last weekend, satisfying the nation’s hunger for motorsport in the intervening F1 break – and then some…

It was a clean sweep for the Honda Racing Team however, with Matt Neal scoring his 50th and 51st British Touring Car Championship wins, while teammate Gordon Shedden also got in on the action, notching up a victory himself.

Race one produced some seriously frenetic racing at the fast Hampshire circuit, with pole sitter Andrew Jordan in his Honda Civic leading from Neal until the very last lap.

The 23-year-old driver picked up a puncture tantalisingly close to the end of the race and victory, handing Neal his 50th BTCC win. Credit to Neal though – he hung with the fast youngster (who would have taken the lead of the championship had he won) keeping him honest throughout and staying in touch to pick up the victory after Jordan’s cruel misfortune, who eventually finished in 11th spot.

Neal was pleased with his success, too:

“You can’t get much better than this! The 50th win feels as sweet as the first one all those years ago. It’s hard to explain just how stoked I am – it’s absolutely awesome! I didn’t expect one win to be honest. I love Thruxton – it’s unspoilt and it’s completely flat out. It’s not usually a happy hunting ground for me to be honest.”

BTCC Thruxton (c) BTCC

Former BTCC champion Jason Plato grabbed second place on the podium after first lap contact with Shedden’s Civic, pitching the Honda driver into the barrier.

Plato got away lightly compared to the Northern Irishman, doing just enough to finish ahead of Tom Onslow-Cole, who recorded the first ever podium for a VW (in his CC) in the modern era of British Touring Car Championship racing.

Race two saw Neal on a role, doubling up to claim his 51st win in BTCC. It was a more convincing victory, too. Neal fended off early pressure from long time rival Plato (who slipped to fifth) to take the win from Onslow-Cole, who improved one place further.

Shedden rounded off the podium in race two but went on to claim his second win of the season, bringing home a Honda one-two-three, with Neal and Jordan joining him on the rostrum.

Shedden on his victory:

“It was a difficult start to the day but we can leave with our heads held high after the win. It still feels like a day of what might have been but if you had told me I’d take a win and a third after the incident this morning I would have thought you were joking.

“Two wins and a second is fantastic for Matt – the old boy’s still got it! He now leads the championship, which is great, but we’ll work hard and work together to see if we can both be in the fight.”

Gordon Shedden (c) BTCC

Plato showed strongly in the final race of the day, but a late puncture scuppered any chances of improving on his showing in the first two races of the day.

It was fitting that Jordan’s efforts were rewarded with a podium after the fastest man in qualifying’s first race was ruined by tyre failure.

Onslow-Cole impressed again in race three, coming home in fourth after a double podium, proving both him and his VW are an emerging package on the 2013 BTCC grid. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on his performance at the next round at Oulton Park on the 9th June…

After an action-packed bank holiday weekend of racing, Matt Neal now heads the championship on 137 points, ahead of Andrew Jordan on 124 points. Jason Plato is close behind on 121, while Shedden and Plato’s team mate Sam Tordoff – who had a weekend categorised by solid results – sit fourth and fifth on 109 and 103 points respectively.