Matt Neal Q&A

A fortnight ago at Brands Hatch, BTCC independent Matt Neal cemented his position as the people's hero with his second outright win in the series. A nightmare qualifying day at Oulton Park has dropped the 6ft 7in Midlander to the back of the Super Touring pack for rounds 21 and 22, but don't think that the problems caused by a testing crash on Friday mean you've seen the last of the Team Dynamics Nissan Primera at the BTCC sharp-end. Neal told Nick Phillips he's looking for more wins before the season's out.

Matt Neal Q&A



A: I think we can, yeah. It's a point to debate. We thought we'd go quite well here at Oulton. We knew the weight [40kg success ballast, courtesy of the Brands win] was going to cost us a lot here, because you've got a lot of slow corners with uphill drags afterwards, so I'm sure that's costing us, but we've got some other problems too. Anyway we'd resigned ourselves to not doing too well here, getting the weight off and then trying to go well at Silverstone [for the final rounds next weekend]. That's the aim.



A: To be honest, you don't get the feel of it in the car, but to see the reaction of the crowd at Brands - even though it was pretty sparse compared to the crowd at Donington when I won last year - was fantastic. That means more to me than anything else, just to see the way the general public responds. It's really special, a lovely feeling.



A: I don't know; it's good though. That's two great feelings I'll take from the BTCC, though hopefully there's more to come. I've been in the series for quite a while now, and those two events really stand out as special.



A: Probably not, because I think a lot of the euphoria was over the £250,000 for the first privateer win, because that is such a lot of money. It's like winning the lottery, isn't it? I was over in America for some show, and people were coming up to me and asking about it. It's a lot of dough and it was just talked about all over the world. At Brands it had already been done before, whereas at Donington it was out of the blue and took people by surprise.



A: I'd pretty much made up my mind quite early. In the opening laps I was quicker than Tom, so when Rickard [Rydell] went off [and out of the lead] I was pretty glad to see the back of him, because I was then pretty confident that I could have a crack at Tom. And I was just trying to size him up when he got a bit flustered by some of the traffic, so whether he'd hit James Kaye or not, I'd already made up my mind that I was going to have a crack at him at Clearways that lap anyway. It was just fortunate that he hit James at the same time, because I was coming at him anyway.



A: I'm not intimidated by any other driver in the championship these days. I'm not conceited enough to say or think that I'm the best out there, though some in the pit lane think they are, but you do have to have a lot of self-confidence to drive at this level. I've got self-belief and self-confidence, but I'm not big-headed enough to think I'm the best. Everyone has their day, cars suit drivers and I think that Matt Neal and the Nissan Primera can take on anyone out there at the moment, given the right situation, so I don't get fazed by anyone. Plus I'm bigger than them when I get out of the car!



A: If you go back five or six years, certainly. When the likes of Johnny Cecotto and David Brabham came over, you just weren't meant to be around and fighting with them, and I think Tom [Kristensen] had a bit of that attitude, coming over from Germany where the privateers don't race at the front. He's come round a bit now though. I think he's a lovely bloke now. He wasn't very happy at Brands, but that's racing. Anthony [Reid] was a bit upset with me when I took second place off him at Donington, but on the podium afterwards I said 'Hey mate, there's no one I'd like to win the championship more than you, but I'm here to race.' And, he understood that. He's taken the side out of my car a couple of times this year, so it's all fair in love and war.



A: I reckon we can do it, though whenever I say that sort of thing it all seems to go wrong. But if we can get the weight off here and get everything on-song we can give it a good crack.



A: I'm about 12 kilos over, so that's always going to be a disadvantage. That's one good thing about next year's regs - driver weight is included in the overall minimum car weight - so that will be the first time ever that I'm fighting on a level playing field in a touring car, which is really good from my point of view. I can give these boys even more stick.



A: Six weeks ago I was pretty disheartened about 2001, but in recent weeks I've become pretty upbeat. There are things in the pipeline, talks in progress and I'm quite excited now for the championship as well as our own prospects. I don't get involved in Team Dynamics' negotiations, but there have been approaches from manufacturers.



A: A few.



A: Yeah. At one point I was really keen to do the European Super Touring Cup, because we know we have a really good package with the Nissan Primera and I believe we could go out there and fight for the championship, but the amount of goodwill we've got in the BTCC, the gelling we have with all our sponsors and partners, means that there's a lot to give up, even if you're only out of it for a year. So for those reasons my opinions have swung this way and then that. Now I'm really keen to sort out a deal to remain in the BTCC.

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