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BTCC 2003 - Rounds 11 & 12 at Croft
 Date: July 15, 2003 05:02
 Submitted by:  danielgr
 Source: Honda Racing UK
 Credibility Rating: N/A

In qualifying the CTR's did well, starting the first round in Second, Third and Fourth places. And now, here're the Honda racing reports of both rounds.

ROUND 11 - Victory for Neal at Croft

The formidable sight of three works Hondas lining up on the front two rows of the grid at Croft today was followed up by a magnificent victory for Matt Neal in his Civic Type R at the 2.1-mile, North Yorkshire circuit.

In sweltering conditions and over 25 laps, it was Neal who beat pole-sitter James Thompson to the first corner but the safety car came out soon after as current championship leader Yvan Muller was shunted off the track by Paul O’Neill. Honda Racing’s Alan Morrison also made a great start to the race and had tucked in behind his team mate but the safety car stayed out for several more laps as marshals tried to soak up oil on the track with cement dust.

As the safety car returned to the pits, Neal made his break at the front, putting in some fast laps, while Morrison came under increasing pressure by James Thompson. Neal was first to pit for Honda at the same time as Thompson, leaving Morrison out in front for a lap before he made a fantastic stop to rejoin the race just in front of Thompson, who’d actually stalled momentarily while exiting his pit stop. However, Morrison’s luck ran out one lap later, when he lost a front wheel and had to retire from the race.

The second half of the race saw Matt Neal comfortably hold an advantage of over three seconds in front of James Thompson but general debris on the circuit brought out the safety car yet again, handing Thompson an opportunity to close right up to Neal, with just a few laps remaining. Aware that he had failed to finish both races at Croft last year, Neal drove superbly to control the final four laps and take his third victory of the season for Honda Racing.

Tom Chilton, who hadn’t made the best start from fourth on the grid, picked up a drive through penalty for a pit stop infringement. Despite dropping down to tenth after the enforced penalty, he fought back and finished the race in seventh place.

Matt Neal: “I’m absolutely over the moon. It’s a shame it wasn’t another Honda Racing one, two because I really thought we were on for that. The car has been right on the money all weekend. Everything just went really well for me – I had a good start and got in front of James Thompson straight away and I was able to keep my position from there.”

Alan Morrison:“Obviously I’m really disappointed. I thought that we were definitely on for another Honda Racing one, two but that didn’t happen and now I just have to focus on the second race.”

Tom Chilton: “It was a very frustrating race for me. I was really pleased with my qualifying position but in the race lots of things just seemed to go wrong. I got a bad start and was down to seventh by the first corner and it was just frustrating after that really. And I got a drive through penalty for driving through Vauxhall’s bay, which cost me about eight or nine seconds. “

Result (25 laps):

1. Matt Neal (Honda Racing) 42:25.755
2. James Thompson (Vauxhall) 42:26.804
3. Paul O’Neill (Vauxhall) 42:30.476
4. Colin Turkington (MG) 42:30.992
5. Anthony Reid (MG) 42:32.369
6. Dan Eaves (Peugeot) 42:37.818
7. Tom Chilton (Honda Racing) 42:39.497
8. Carl Breeze (Vauxhall) 42:41.718
9. David Leslie (Proton) 42:42.087
10. Phil Bennett (Proton) 42:43.431
Alan Morrison (Honda Racing) DNF

ROUND 12 - Solid finishes for Morrison and Neal in race two at Croft

Well, in fact Morrison race was really impressive since he made it to fourth having started from last position after his DNF in the first race

Starting from pole position, but carrying maximum ballast due to his race one victory, Matt Neal got a flying start to today’s second race at Croft. Having to defend against the lighter cars of James Thompson and Anthony Reid, Neal had his work cut out for him and had to focus all his energy just on staying out in front. However, Reid passed Thompson and then made contact with Matt Neal’s Civic Type R, forcing the Honda Racing driver to take evasive action. This also allowed Thompson to slip through into second place.

Honda Racing’s Tom Chilton had made a good start from seventh place and had driven superbly up to fifth, before he was passed by championship leader Yvan Muller, who was carrying no ballast due to him crashing out of race one. Chilton’s team mate, Alan Morrison, who had started way back from the eighth row of the grid, had fought his way up to seventh place by the time the pit stop window opened on the tenth lap.

Matt Neal pitted first for Honda Racing and he regained the track in third place ahead of Yvan Muller, who’d had a problem with the air jack in pit lane. The Worcestershire-based driver held off the challenge of Muller for several laps, but was block passed at the chicane. Meanwhile, Tom Chilton had crashed and was forced to make another pit stop, so it was left to Alan Morrison to be the Honda man on a charge. He passed Paul O’Neill to move up to fifth behind Matt Neal. With the much lighter car, Morrison was soon waved past by his team mate, so he could set after the leading trio in the handful of laps that remained.

Although he made his presence felt in the race, unfortunately for Morrison,there just weren’t enough laps remaining for him to close on the leaders, so he was forced to settle for fourth place – no mean feat considering that he had started the race from the eighth row of the grid. Despite his maximum ballast, Matt Neal drove skilfully to finish in fifth place, while Tom Chilton finished in 12th.

Matt Neal: “Overall I’m pleased with the weekend. It’s probably my biggest points haul so far and I think it’s been a good weekend for Honda Racing. We couldn’t replicate the tyre configuration that we used in the first race so we gambled and unfortunately we got it wrong. I had terminal oversteer right from the start and that and the extra weight were just too much.”

Alan Morrison: “I got a good start but the other boys closed in on me really quickly. I’m pleased with a fourth place finish from starting last but to be honest I’m just glad to get this weekend out of the way and move on to the next race.”

Tom Chilton: “I got a much better start than in the first race but I had a few problems again so it was still quite frustrating. I was just hanging in there holding my place and trying not to let Yvan through but he had a lighter car. I had a good pit stop but then I had problems with my rear left tyre caused by wear and it was just not holding up. That was a shame because if it wasn’t for that I could have stayed up there with the others and held on to sixth. The most important thing is that this is the biggest learning year I’ve ever had and I am learning all the time from every race.”

Result (25 laps):

1. Anthony Reid (MG) 37:23.719
2. James Thompson (Vauxhall) 37:27.132
3. Yvan Muller (Vauxhall) 37:32.739
4. Alan Morrison (Honda Racing) 37:40.001
5. Matt Neal (Honda Racing) 37:44.059
6. Paul O’Neill (Vauxhall) 37:46.530
7. Colin Turkington (MG) 37:56.350
8. Robert Collard (Vauxhall) 38:03.672
9. Carl Breeze (Vauxhall) 38:05.016
10. Warren Hughes (MG) 38:08.550
12. Tom Chilton (Honda Racing) 38:35.793b>
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