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Interview : Steve Neal, Team Dynamics - Q&A

Steve Neal, Team Dynamics - Q&A Steve Neal, Team Dynamics - Q&A

Sat 6th February 2010 Team Dynamics boss Steve Neal joined us for a Q&A ahead of the 2010 season.

By Matt Salisbury

Q:
2009 maybe wasn't the season you hoped it would be. How would you sum it up?

Steve Neal:
That's a good question actually, I hadn't really though about that! One to forget I think, although the experience with Thommo was very good and Johnny Herbert was a great guy to have onboard. He doesn't have the experience of James though and isn't a direct replacement for him; he is someone different who brings something else to the party. For pure ability to drive a front-wheel drive car and set it up, Jimmy T is one of the best in the world as you well know. When he left us, we missed him.

Q:
How tough was 2009 as a team after the loss of Halfords backing and the fact that there were a number of driver changes during the year?

Steve Neal:
It is exactly what you've said. Funding was difficult as it is again this year it's even tougher this year. The driver situation with David coming onboard was good as he brought a good budget with him but that is the first time I've run a driver who had paid for his drive. Normally I like to employ the young professionals. David was entertaining to have onboard though, that's for sure!

Q:
What's the state of play for 2010?

Steve Neal:
I was talking to Peter Riches and both he and Alan Gow think this season is going to be more difficult. Last year had momentum from 2008 but this year doesn't have the momentum it has gone completely. There is very little cash about, people have been laying off staff and there are a lot of mechanics and engineers out of work. SEAT has quit the WTCC, Lada has pulled out, BMW has downscaled and it seems to be Chevrolet or nothing there. I don't see that as a proper world championship anymore.

Q:
With regards to the BTCC, are we seeing the after effect now of Vauxhall pulling out as we don't have a manufacturer team anymore.

Steve Neal:
It's a shame as they were the benchmark for everyone. If you have a proper manufacturer team like Vauxhall, or like RML, then there is something for everyone to go for and compare themselves to. They also have a strong influence over how the championship is run. When you get wildcards coming in with kit cars like the new Focus and like the Lacetti then it makes it a bit of a farce to be honest with you.

Q:
Is it more challenging to bring in sponsors without a manufacturer or is it always difficult.

Steve Neal:
Not for the normal sponsors it isn't as they are looking for what exposure they can get and you can sell that on the basis that they will probably get more exposure without the manufacturer teams. But to attract a works team, it is more difficult as they want to be racing against works teams. That is the difference.

Q:
You've made no secret about wanting to get Honda involved more and you said at Brands Hatch that there were more talks lined up. What happened there?

Steve Neal:
We are always talking to them to try and persuade them that is a good thing to be doing as it is the only thing they have left in motorsport in Europe. But we are only talking to Honda UK and they have had a tough time as you appreciate. They are doing alright under the scrappage scheme and have been selling the Jazz which is built in Swindon, and my understanding is that the company is running profitably, so maybe the view will be different.

Q:
But then you have the problem you just mentioned of not having a manufacturer team for Honda to race against...

Steve Neal:
Exactly. I don't see Honda putting up a works team like Vauxhall did with Triple Eight, but I think they would like to help out with some sponsorship. The problem is that we need to wait for them to set their sponsorship levels for the season ahead.

Q:
We can assume that one place would be filled by Matt. Would you want Johnny in the second seat?

Steve Neal:
It all depends on money quite honestly. If we have the funds to take Johnny on, then I would be very happy to do it.

Q:
Would you ever consider the NGTC engine as potential option for your cars to help with the budget?

Steve Neal:
We did look at it, but it doesn't package into our car. We have a small package in our engine compartment and putting that in with a pretty big blower on it and all the installation that is required wasn't practical from our point of view. Also, they say the first year will be cost neutral, but I don't see it like that. We have no market for our engines as no-one else really runs the Honda anywhere so there was no cash generation from selling the old engines to buy into the turbo package.

Q:
Will it be tough to ensure the performance of the two engines is kept fairly level given the arguments we've had in recent years over petrol against diesel and FWD against RWD?

Steve Neal:
I think you're right. TOCA seem to think they can control it and Alan [Gow] is of the opinion that he can control the power output and the performance of the cars. The fact that he doesn't isn't necessarily what we want to see. It was pretty obvious that the Lacetti had an advantage over everyone else last season and he should have been able to control that better but he didn't.

Q:
There have been steps to the slow the RWD cars with the gearing change but will that solve a problem?

Steve Neal:
As long as they play the game they it might work, Personally, I don't think it is going to make a great deal of difference.

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