Neal leads Halfords 1-2-3

Matt Neal moved a big step closer to a second consecutive British Touring Car Championship title by leading a Team Halfords one-two-three sweep in race three at Knockhill

Neal leads Halfords 1-2-3

But the race should have belonged to Team RAC's Colin Turkington, who was clearly the fastest man on the track as he charged through from ninth on the grid.

By lap 10 Turkington was on the tail of Neal and teammate Gareth Howell, grabbing second into the hairpin four laps later.

Howell managed to regain the place at the same spot when Turkington focused a little too hard on attacking Neal on lap 16, but within a lap the now bio-ethanol fuelled MG ZS was back through to second.

Turkington then muscled past Neal into the hairpin next time around and seemed certain of victory, only for the car to start cutting out shortly afterwards.

The Halfords Hondas swept back through as Turkington slowed and eventually retired.

Meanwhile Gordon Shedden had been coming through the field from 13th and catching his teammates. Both Howell and Neal pulled aside and allowed Shedden past so he could gain the bonus point for leading a lap, before the local star dropped back into second and followed Neal home.

With Turkington retiring and Jason Plato unable to start due to the damage his SEAT sustained in race two, Neal now has an enormous 53 point championship lead with six rounds remaining.

"The team's had a big day today," said Neal. "It's been fairly fraught at times, so to take our first ever one-two-three is fantastic."

Darren Turner progressed from the back of the grid to fourth ahead of Gavin Smith, with the Vauxhalls no match for the other leaders in this race. Fabrizio Giovanardi salvaged sixth - surviving a punt from Rob Collard in the closing stages.

Mark Proctor had drawn the pole position but lost the lead to Neal at the start. He was then bundled down the order before coming home eighth in what may be his last appearance of 2006.

Another star privateer was Kartworld MG man Jason Hughes, who briefly ran second to Neal before slipping down the field and eventually retiring with mechanical problems.

CLASSIFIED: Pos  Driver Make Time 1.  Matt Neal    Honda Integra  25:34.880 2.  Gordon Shedden  Honda Integra  + 0.144 3.  Gareth Howell    Honda Integra  + 0.646 4.  Darren Turner    SEAT Leon    + 5.268 5.  Gavin Smith    Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch  + 8.364 6.  Fabrizio Giovanardi  Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch  + 18.061 7.  Robert Collard    MG ZS    + 18.662 8.  Mark Proctor    Honda Civic Type R  + 25.371 9.  David Pinkney    Honda Integra    + 33.138 10.  Martyn Bell    BMW 320i E46    + 38.691 NOT CLASSIFIED/RETIREMENTS: Driver Make On Lap  Colin Turkington MG ZS  20   Jason Hughes    MG ZS  11   Richard Marsh    Peugeot 307  3   Tom Chilton    Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch  1  Fastest Lap: Gordon Shedden, 53.311 on lap 11 

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