Interview : Neal expecting tough competition
Sat 27th March 2010 2010 is Matt Neal's 20th consecutive season in the BTCC. Returning to the Team Dynamics fold once again, he's hoping that manufacturer-backing from Honda will help bring success, but he knows it won't be easy.
By Matt Lamprell
Matt Neal is the most experienced driver on the BTCC grid, with over 400 races to his name heading into the 2010 season. Jason Plato may have 53 wins versus Neal's 31, but the Team Dynamics driver leads 2-1 in championship titles.
Neal's most successful BTCC seasons have all come when he has raced for his father's Team Dynamics setup. In 1999, he famously collected £250,000 when he became the first Independent driver to win a BTCC race outright. His two BTCC titles came in 2005 and 2006, running under the Team Halfords banner.
Neal spent the past two seasons as part of the VX Racing team but could only watch on as Fabrizio Giovanardi stole the show. He rejoins Team Dynamics for a season that sees them officially represent Honda in the BTCC for the first time.
"We've got some good backing from Honda this year and the new livery is looking pretty racy", said Neal at the 2010 BTCC media launch at Brands Hatch.
"I'm back to the Dynamics fold - It's great to be back with the team and back with Honda. It's the combination that I won my two championships with.
"I won't say it's like putting on an old coat because that's the wrong terminology but there are familiar faces and you know everyone's strengths and their weaknesses. Hopefully we can support each other in our weaknesses and exploit each others' strengths."
While Neal acknowledges that the past couple of seasons didn't bring the success he would have liked, he's quick to focus on the positives.
"You never stop learning", said Neal. "You just build up your portfolio of things you can deal with as they come at you. They change the tracks every year. They've resurfaced Brands this year, which is all good. It changes, everything changes.
"The cars change and the opposition changes; the array of opposition changes. We've got turbo cars, gas cars, world S2000 cars."
So what can Neal and the Honda Racing Team achieve in 2010?
"The opposition is very strong", said Neal when questioned on his chances. "The car feels very racy, though. We've had a couple of cracking tests and we've had a couple of average tests. We've got to try and iron out the average ones and get the thing on the money.
"I think we could be in a position to win some good races and be up there. But I'm under no illusions about the level of the competition."