Neal wins 2011 BTCC Drivers' title
BTCC: Matt Neal has won the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after coming out on top against his team-mate Gordon Shedden in a nail-biting final race of the season at the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire.
In front of ITV Sport’s cameras – broadcasting live for seven and a half hours from the event – and packed grandstands at Silverstone, Neal lifted one of motor sport’s most prestigious titles in the world for the third time in his career. The BTCC also ended on a massive high with a record 30 cars appearing on its grid.
Worcestershire’s Neal won the days first race from pole position ahead of Fife’s Shedden. Buckinghamshire’s James Nash finished third in his 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra to secure the Independents Trophy.
Shedden then retaliated by winning race two ahead of Neal, their Civics chased to the line by Tom Onslow-Cole’s Team Aon Ford Focus. It meant Shedden was now just six points behind Neal heading into the day’s third and final race of the season.
But it was to be Neal’s day as he finished the third race in eighth, two places ahead of Shedden, to add to his previous titles in 2005 and 2006 – also in Hondas and with the same Team Dynamics squad. The race was won by Tom Chilton’s Team Aon Ford Focus ahead of 2010 Champion Jason Plato’s Silverline Chevrolet Cruze and Tom Boardman’s Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon.
Plato plus Nash and Airwaves Racing Ford Focus driver Mat Jackson had also all arrived at Silverstone still capable of winning the crown – the first five-way showdown in BTCC history – but by the end of race two each had fallen out of contention.
Meanwhile Neal and Shedden’s partnership has enabled Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Racing Team to comfortably win the BTCC’s coveted Manufacturers/Constructors and HiQ Teams championships. Nash’s 888/Collins squad has also won the Independent Teams Trophy.
An ecstatic Neal, who at 44 has become the first triple BTCC Champion since Andy Rouse in the early Eighties, commented: “This has been the toughest of my three titles to win – the competition has been extraordinarily high and Gordon has been such a hard team-mate to beat. To have my name on the trophy for a third time alongside so many great names… I am overwhelmed. It means the world to me."
Shedden, aged 32 from Dalgety Bay, had hoped to become the first Scottish driver to win the BTCC since John Cleland in 1995. He said: “We’d said all along our priority was to ensure Honda won these titles and then see where things led after that – I was third last year, now second this… maybe it’ll be my turn next season. I gave it my all but it was to be Matt’s championship this time around and I’m very happy for him and particularly everyone in the Honda team.”
For full Silverstone race reports, results and more copyright-free hi-res imagery visit the BTCC’s official website www.btcc.net
2011 Dunlop BTCC Drivers’ Points after Silverstone (round 10 of 10):
1. Matt Neal, 257 points
2. Gordon Shedden, 249
3. Jason Plato, 236
=4. Mat Jackson & James Nash, 191
6. Andrew Jordan, 143
7. Tom Chilton, 135
8. Robert Collard, 108
9. Alex MacDowall, 100
10. Paul O’Neill, 91
1. Honda/Dynamics, 621
2. Chevrolet/RML, 496
3. Arena/Ford, 438
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