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

Reigning 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

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

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 Retirements: 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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Brands Hatch BTCC: Tom Onslow-Cole captures pole in thriller

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Series BTCC
Drivers Matt Neal
Teams BTC Racing
Author Kevin Turner
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