Supported by quirky pop duo The Cheeky Girls, Matt Neal took a brilliant win for Computeach Racing with Halfords in the fourth round of the BTCC at Brands Hatch.
Neal stormed to the first win for an independent team in the championship since his own last win for Team Dynamics, which runs Computeach Racing with Halfords, in 2000.
“It was good and it’s clever on the scoreboard,” said Neal, who was up to fourth place in the overall series points by the end of the day. The Cheeky Girls’ visit to the Kent circuit brought a dose of good fortune too, reckoned Matt. “They were my cheeky charms,” he said.
Gabriella and Monica had a great day, joining the team on the grid before each race. “I was really excited,” admitted Gabriella, especially when Matt won. I think we definitely brought him luck.”
“We’ve watched racing on TV, but never live before,” added Monica. “It’s very exciting and on TV you don’t feel the atmosphere. It’s been a special experience for us – really good fun.”
The excitement of the first race win turned to disappointment for Matt, when he was unable to start race two because of a starter motor problem. However the crowd favourite bounced back in the third and final race of the day with a sparkling drive through the field from the back of the grid to seventh place, making up 11 places in 25 laps and setting the race’s fastest lap.
Matt’s overall win earned him the Dunlop Spirit of the Championship award.
Team principal Steve Neal commented: “We’ve got the pace, now we just need a bit more luck.”
Neal’s team-mate Dan Eaves is still learning all about the Honda Civic Type-R and the team after clinching a late deal to join the squad just before the first race just over a fortnight ago.
Dan took eighth place in each race, but still felt that he’d made good progress over the weekend as he works to adapt the car to a driving style he feels is significantly different to Neal’s.
“I was much closer to the pace in race three,” he said after finishing less than eight seconds behind the race winner. “Hopefully it’s starting to come together.”
Eaves and the rest of the Computeach Racing with Halfords team are now looking forward to the next three rounds of the championship, which take place at Silverstone on May 8/9.