Neal wins Brands sprint race

Matt Neal grabbed a memorable British Touring Car Championship sprint race win in round 19 on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit

Neal wins Brands sprint race

The independent Nissan driver qualified third and ran there for the early laps, but moved up when first Rickard Rydell and then Tom Kristensen fell foul of Class B cars.

Rydell had made an excellent start from pole position to lead the field away, but his team mate and fellow front-row man Anthony Reid was slow away. Kristensen, by contrast, stormed away (like an exocet missile according to Neal) to move up from fourth on the grid to second.

Neal held on to third place, with Vauxhall's Yvan Muller fourth. Reid tried to recover on the outside at Druids, but only ended up losing more places as he half spun into the gravel after contact with Jason Plato.

On lap two Alain Menu - another fast starter from seventh on the grid - nipped past Muller at Druids into fourth.

"I sold him a dummy," said the Swiss with a happy, but slightly surprised look.

Muller was mortified to have fallen for it. "It was the mistake of a junior driver," said the Frenchman, "I was stupid."

Rydell's lead looked a comfortable one until Class B debutant Gavin Pyper rattled his Alfa 156 across the kerbs at Clearways, ripped the sump off and coated the circuit with oil. Rydell was the first to encounter the slick and half spun. Kristensen fared better, but Neal, whose team had warned him over the radio did best, moving onto the tail of new leader Kristensen as Rydell resumed in third.

Kristensen kept the Honda ahead as the leaders ran the gauntlet while lapping the Class B cars. James Kaye had the upper hand in the class in the Barwell Honda Accord, but the twin Peugeots of Toni Ruokonen and Alan Morrison were right on his tail and Tom Ferrier in the second Alfa was in touch.

Then on lap 11, Kristensen collected a Class B car and embarrassingly it was Accord-on-Accord contact, as the Dane and James Kaye collided at Clearways. "He cost himself points and me the championship," said an angry Kaye. "He only had to wait a second longer, there was no way Matt could have gone round him because of the oil."

After the collision though Neal did just that, and though Kaye kept going he later went off himself at Clearways, blaming the Kristensen-induced damage for the shunt.

Kristensen felt Kaye had opened the door to him and then closed it again. "I was committed when he closed," he explained.

That really settled the top three. Neal led all the way to the flag and though Kristensen closed right up again, he couldn't get past. Rydell was third and Menu a handy fourth.

In Class B the Peugeots took the honours, with Ruokonen handing the win to title favourite Morrison. Ferrier brought his Alfa home an impressive third.

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