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Neal takes victory in first Knockhill race as Turkington falters

BTCC News | Sun 24th August 2014

Matt Neal won an eventful first race at Knockhill, while Honda Yuasa Racing teammate Gordon Shedden closed in on the championship lead as both Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan failed to finish.

By Matt Lamprell

It was Neal’s first victory since Croft in 2013, but he was made to work hard for it in what was one of the busiest races of the season so far.

Colin Turkington qualified fastest for round 19, but only started ninth on the grid as the result of a penalty incurred last time out at Snetterton. It was MG KX Clubcard Fuelsave’s Sam Tordoff who inherited pole position following Turkington’s demotion.

Tordoff led the race from the start, ahead of Rob Austin, who started alongside him in the Exocet Racing Audi A4. Andrew Jordan was third for Pirtek Racing, with Shedden in fourth.

Shedden soon put his local knowledge to good use, challenging Jordan ahead of him from the opening lap. The Scot looked set to make his move at the final corner hairpin. He tried a couple of times unsuccessfully, before making the move stick on lap four.

The following few laps saw the top four running close together. Tordoff held onto the lead but started to struggle with his front left tyre rubbing on the bodywork of his MG. Rob Austin lost second place on lap 11 when he ran wide, dropping down to fifth.

Outside the front-runners, championship leader Colin Turkington spent several laps battling with Airwaves Racing’s Mat Jackson. As they fought with each other, they also closed on Honda trio Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden and Andrew Jordan.

14 laps into the race, the Hondas were fighting among themselves. Shedden passed Jordan, only for the Pirtek Racing driver to reclaim the place. As they headed down through Duffus Dip, there was slight contact between Jordan and Shedden. The end result was Shedden spinning across the track. However, as he headed towards the gravel, Shedden collected the rear of Jordan’s Civic hatch, damaging its suspension and sending the reigning champion into retirement. While Shedden was facing the wrong way, he was able to rejoin.

There was more drama to follow, as Colin Turkington challenged Jason Plato for fifth position. Mat Jackson was in the mix, too, ensuring Turkington had to keep his eyes on his mirrors just as much as on Plato, in front. Lap 18 saw Turkington pass Plato into Duffus Dip, but the BMW ran wide on the exit and rejoined ahead of Plato. Unfortunately for the Northern Irishman, though, he found himself on the end of a chain reaction as Jackson tapped Plato and Plato hit the BMW. Turkington spun backwards into the gravel, where his race ended as he was unable to get going again.

At the front, there was more action, as Matt Neal passed Tordoff for the lead of the race, just before the safety car was deployed to allow the recovery of Turkington’s eBay Motors BMW. There was worse to come for Tordoff, however. He pulled off the track while the pack was behind the safety car.

When the race resumed, there were just a handful of laps remaining. Neal opened up a gap from the restart and there were no further changes among the race leaders. At the chequered flag, Neal led the way, ahead of Austin, Shedden and Jackson. Plato took fifth place, with Morgan sixth and Ingram, seventh. Eighth place went to Aron Smith, while Dave Newsham and Nick Foster completed the top ten.

Matt Neal said, “The car was great. I struggled a bit at the start, but the soft tyres really came in. I knew Rob would push hard to the end. I was just sorry I couldn’t help Flash out earlier in the race.”

Rob Austin said, “Our first gear is so long, so that was the best I could do at the start. I got knocked around a lot during that race. I really want to win won today – that’s what I’m here for.”

Gordon Shedden said, “That’s probably the most eventful podium finish I’ve ever had in my life. It’s a good points finish though. We’ll reassess and try again in the next race.

“I did the switchback, as I’ve down many times before. I was up the inside and then on the marbles. I thought the race was over, but somehow I got it going again. We need to get another couple of good races and see what we can do.”

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