Team Halfords has ended the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on a high at Thruxton after a podium apiece for Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in the season finale.
In the final race weekend of the debut season for the all-new Honda Civic, Gordon took a third place finish in the opening race of the weekend and while a suspension issue in race two would hit his challenge, he secured third in the standings in only his second season in the BTCC.
Double champion Matt also ended his season with a trip to the podium in race two and was able to secure fourth in the standings, capping a fine season for the Team Dynamics run team.
Having qualified in fifth place, Matt made a good start to the opening race of the weekend and challenged sparring partner Jason Plato at the complex on lap one. However, he was then forced to run wide and slipped behind Colin Turkington and Darren Turner to drop to seventh. Matt also lost out to team-mate Flash but made places up once again to eventually take the flag in fifth place.
Flash meanwhile enjoyed a fine drive, having started in ninth place after a problem in qualifying meant he was restricted to one timed lap to decide his place on the grid. Making up places throughout, he took a podium finish on the final lap when Vauxhall’s Alain Menu suffered a puncture, overhauling the Swiss driver on the run to the line.
Getting ahead of Menu at the start of race two, Matt quickly climbed into fourth place when the race got underway and then got ahead of Flash into third where he would remain to the finish. However, that wasn’t before he was embroiled in a race long battle with title rivals Giovanardi and Plato as the three raced nose-to-tail for the entire 16 laps.
For Gordon, things didn’t go to plan as he was forced to retire from the race after suffering a suspension problem.
For the final race of the season, Matt made a good start from fifth on the grid to jump up to third behind the quick-starting BMWs of Mat Jackson and Colin Turkington. Having lost position to Giovanardi, Matt ran solidly in fourth place before losing out to Tom Chilton for fifth. Contact from Jason Plato saw Matt run wide at the Complex and lose position to the SEAT man. When Colin Turkington spun at the Chicane, it mixed up the order behind, leaving Matt running fifth behind Plato. The race then ended a lap early following an accident involving Mike Jordan, with Matt settling for fifth.
Gordon meanwhile produced a solid drive through the field to take the flag in ninth place.
Matt Neal: “I’m over the moon with how this season has panned out. We can’t forget that the cars hadn’t turned a wheel before the first race and we are only a small outfit. To finish the season third and fourth is a monumental achievement and makes me very proud. We had some bad fortune this season but that is how it goes and if we could have hit the spot with the Civic at the start we would have been in the hunt at the end. It wasn’t meant to be this year but we have ended on a positive note and it looks good for the future.”
Gordon Shedden: “To arrive at Thruxton in third place was good and to finish third in the opening race gave me an extra buffer. I had to retire in race two with a suspension issue which was devastating and meant I was at the back for the start of race three but I had ten races where I didn’t score this season and have still finished third. To do that is something I’m very happy with.”