BTCC – Neal Wins, Jackson Thrills In Race 1 At Croft

June 19, 2011


Matt Neal held on against a rapidly closing Mat Jackson to win Croft’s first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race today.

Neal led every lap in his Honda Racing Team Civic, resisting constant pressure from Robert Collard’s WSR BMW and Jason Plato’s Silverline Chevrolet Cruze on a wet but drying track.

Plato had started from pole position but a half-spin at the very first bend had dropped him behind both Neal and Collard.

Jackson, meanwhile, had chosen a mixture of slick front and treaded rear tyres. At first he struggled and fell to 12th, more than 20 seconds off the lead. But as the track started to dry his gamble began paying off and he quickly picked off the drivers ahead of him – including driving around the outside of BOTH the squabbling Tom Boardman and Alex MacDowall at the hairpin.

Starting the final lap he was up to fourth and within range of the leaders. He passed Plato exiting Tower Bend and Collard entering the Sunny In corner, their cars briefly scraping panels. Rounding the final hairpin he was right behind Neal and at the line their cars were separated by just 0.055s.

“That was very hard, maximum concentration all the way,” said Neal. “I had Rob right behind me. One slip and he’d have been through and I don’t think I’d have been able to pass him after that. Then the team told me on the radio how quickly Mat was coming up and at the hairpin I really thought he’d get me before the line as he had better traction. Luckily that was the last lap.”

Jackson, who set the race’s fastest lap, added: “I’m very happy with that but second again – it’s exactly the same as 2008 when I came through and couldn’t quite get Colin Turkington. I had the advantage over the closing laps but it was still very hard to choose the right moment to make the move on people as it was still very slippery off-line.”

Collard commented: “I was quicker than Matt (Neal) in some places but in others he was just gone. I needed him to make a mistake but he didn’t put a wheel wrong. Congratulations to Mat (Jackson). He drove like a legend.”

Completing the top six were Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden and Andrew Jordan in his Pirtek Vauxhall Vectra.

As a result, Neal has stretched out a ten-point lead at the top of the standings over Jackson who is now second ahead of Shedden and Plato.

Unsurprisingly on a greasy track surface today’s first race was high in incident elsewhere. John George and Tony Gilham both ended up in the gravel trap at Clervaux corner, the latter’s 888/Collins Vauxhall Vectra becoming stranded which led to a two-lap safety car period. Others in the wars included Collard’s team-mate Nick Foster who slithered off the track and bounced off the tyre barriers – miraculously he recovered to finish 13th – as well as Dave Newsham who lost a lap as a punctured tyre was replaced in the pit lane.

On his return to Team Aon, Tom Onslow-Cole took 11th with considerable damage to the side of his Ford Focus after hitting a tyre stack at the complex on the final lap. A late bid to pass Boardman’s Special Tuning SEAT exiting the hairpin resulted in him crossing the line while still on the grass!

Rob Austin starred early on his RAR team’s NGTC-spec Audi but retired with suspension and steering damage.

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