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Brands Hatch BTCC: Matt Neal wins opener to stay in title race

Matt Neal BTCC BrandsReigning British Touring Car champion Matt Neal kept himself in 2012 title contention with a fine victory in wet conditions on the Brands Hatch GP circuit.

Neal's works Honda Civic started the first BTCC race of the day from third on the grid, but immediately jumped to second as front-row man Andrew Jordan (Eurotech Honda) suffered with wheelspin.

Poleman Tom Onslow-Cole initially pulled away in his rear-wheel-drive WSR BMW, but Neal soon reeled him in.

At the start of lap three the Honda dived down the inside of the BMW at Paddock and then held off the counter-attack to secure a lead Neal was not to lose.

After his poor start, Jordan quickly picked off Rob Collard's BMW and made it by Onslow-Cole at the end of lap three.

He then started to attack Neal, but his challenge was curtailed when Ollie Jackson went off at Druids in AmD's VW Golf and brought out the safety car.

Jordan was less of a threat to Neal after the restart and had to hold off Onslow-Cole on the final lap to claim the runner-up spot.

Aron Smith starred in Motorbase's S2000 Ford Focus to come home fourth. He started on row six and battled his way by Dave Newsham (ES Racing Vauxhall Vectra) and Jason Plato's works MG before setting off after Gordon Shedden (works Honda) and Collard.

Shedden had overcome Collard just before the safety car period, but could do nothing when Smith got alongside on the run to Paddock and had to settle for fifth.

Plato's MG again struggled in the slippery conditions and could only manage eighth, behind Collard and Newsham.

Neal's fifth win of 2012 moves him to within 20 points of points leader Shedden, with Plato now just two points ahead of Neal with two races still to go.

Jordan is now out of the running for the overall title, but looks set to seal the Independents Trophy.

Race 1 - 17 laps: 

Pos  Driver           Team/Car               Time/Gap
 1.  Matt Neal        Honda                31m27.137s
 2.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Honda         + 0.526s
 3.  Tom Onslow-Cole  WSR BMW                + 1.040s
 4.  Aron Smith       Motorbase Ford         + 6.698s
 5.  Gordon Shedden   Honda                 + 11.082s
 6.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW               + 11.925s
 7.  Dave Newsham     ES Vauxhall           + 11.944s
 8.  Jason Plato      MG                    + 14.301s
 9.  Will Bratt       Austin Audi           + 25.050s
10.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Honda        + 27.407s
11.  Lea Wood         Wood Vauxhall         + 27.583s
12.  Adam Morgan      Speedworks Toyota     + 31.829s
13.  Andy Neate       MG                    + 33.821s
14.  Aaron Williamson Gilham Honda          + 33.967s
15.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW               + 34.582s
16.  Daniel Welch     Welch Proton          + 34.770s
17.  Rob Austin       Austin Audi           + 35.933s
18.  Chris James      ES Vauxhall           + 42.163s
19.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford        + 52.665s
20.  Tony Hughes      Speedworks Toyota     + 53.184s


     Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota          16 laps
     Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford          14 laps
     Ollie Jackson    AmD Volkswagen           4 laps
     Tony Gilham      Thorney Vauxhall         3 laps
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