Monday, 6 June 2011

BTCC Oulton Park - Weekend Race Review

An Eventful Weekend for Team Honda Racing
Possibly the Most Exciting BTCC Round this Year

Celebrations. Disappointment. Rivalry. For me these three words sum-up the BTCC weekend at Outlton Park.

Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden Battle in the Wet
 An outstanding win from Gordon Shedden in race 1, when Team Honda’s gamble in tyre combinations paid off in tricky weather conditions; slicks on the front and treaded wet tyres on the rear, meant after loosing his pole position to teammate Matt Neal at the very start of the race, he soon took it back and managed to out-run the rest of the field.

Following Shedden to the chequered flag was top Silverline Chevrolet driver and championship contender Jason Plato with his teammate Alex MacDowall just behind him in 3rd place – a brilliant result for the upcoming driver. Championship leader, Neal managed to keep in the top 10 but failed to maintain the pace leaving him down in 8th position.

Race two can only be described as ‘a good race gone bad’ for Team Honda, as Shedden lead the race from start to the very last corner, when teammate Neal unable to settle for 2nd position, pushed too hard forcing himself down the inside of Shedden, causing them to collide, pushing them both into the gravel trap – an accident that Neal can only describe as a “horrible mistake”, allowed his top rival, Plato to take the win from third position. Not quite what he was expecting on the very last corner. Vauxhall Vectra driver James Nash and BMW 320Si driver Rob Collard also scored well in the second race, taking 2nd and 3rd position, while a disappointed Shedden managed an uncomfortable 6th. “At the time going for it seemed the right thing to do but in hindsight it was a dumb move on my part,” Neal said.

Meanwhile, tension was building as Plato once again questioned the parity between the new NGTC engines and the standard aspirated engines. “We just want a chance to compete,” Plato said. “A great race, actually a crap race.”

The two Honda’s where back on form for the final encounter, with Shedden keeping to his new plan taking second place, the all important podium finish he needed to keep the teams’ grip on the driver standings and the manufacturers fight. "The best way to respond was to get back on to the podium in the third race and that was what we did." Shedden said.

Shedden was unable to keep up with Mat Jackson’s Airwaves Ford Focus who stormed ahead, leading the race from start to finish. Neal charged from 19th on the grid, ahead of Plato in the opening stages of the race - which wouldn’t have pleased him after his comments made after race two - to take 4th position, allowing him to remain at the top of the drivers championship leader board, but just two points ahead of Shedden.

Excitement is already beginning to build as we head to Croft next, for fifth round of the BTCC on 19th June.

By Sophie Williamson-Stothert

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