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Matt Neal clinches race three win and BTCC championship lead

Sunday, June 06 2010

Honda Racing's Matt Neal has gained an important advantage in the title chase for the 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after fending off the charging Airwaves BMW of Steven Kane to clinch victory in the final race at Oulton Park today (Sunday).

Neal arrived at Oulton Park as joint leader of the drivers' championship with Racing Silverline's Jason Plato but went into race three on the back foot after Plato secured victory in race two.

In race three, pole-sitter Chevrolet's Alex MacDowall was the early leader from fellow front row starter Special Tuning UK's Tom Boardman, whilst Matt Neal made up three places on the opening lap after starting eighth on the grid.

The early part of the race was interrupted by two safety car periods, the first due to Martin Depper's BMW crashing heavily at Cascades. Race leader MacDowall then suffered a driveshaft problem, which led to Boardman inheriting the lead as the safety car was deployed again to move MacDowall's stricken car.

As the race restarted for a second time, Boardman held the lead from the Team Aon Ford Focus of Tom Chilton. The pair became engaged in a fierce battle and Chilton did briefly overtake Boardman until a huge sideways moment at Cascades dropped him down to fourth position and out of contention for victory. This promoted James Nash's Triple Eight Vauxhall Vectra into second position and Matt Neal to third.

Neal then proceeded to barge his way past James Nash at Island Bend before hunting down Boardman, who defended valiantly until the Honda Racing driver scythed past him entering Lodge corner. Boardman's race then went from bad to worse as he was then forced to pull off the circuit with a broken right front wheel - possibly caused by contact with Neal.

Steven Kane also overtook James Nash to secure second place and the Ulsterman pushed Neal all the way to the chequered flag, the pair going nose-to-tail several times before crossing the line only two tenths of a second apart.

"After race one I thought I was going to be walking away from Oulton Park in sixth place, so this result is a bit of a shock," said Neal. "I'm over the moon though and it's a great result for the team."

Nash held on to clinch third position and his first BTCC podium, ahead of Team Aon Ford Focus duo Tom Chilton and Tom Onslow-Cole in fourth and fifth respectively. The result meant Onslow-Cole was the highest point scorer of the weekend and as a result he was awarded a special one-off trophy in memory of Cliff Johnson, father of Boulevard Racing's Martin Johnson, who sadly passed away last weekend.

Chevrolet's Jason Plato crossed the line in sixth, leaving him eight points adrift of Neal in the championship standings, whilst Kane's team-mate Mat Jackson finished seventh.

After missing the first two races of the day due to gearbox problems, the Sunshine.co.uk Honda Integra of Paul O'Neill was on course for a well-deserved eighth place result until he ran wide at Cascades on the last lap. This promoted WSR BMW duo Rob Collard and Andy Neate through to eighth and ninth respectively, whilst O'Neill rounded out the top ten.

There were retirements for the AmD VW Golf of Shaun Hollamby and Pirtek Racing's Andrew Jordan, the latter ending the race with the rear end of his Vauxhall Vectra on top of the tyre wall at Island Bend!

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, Oulton Park, race three:
1. Matt Neal (Honda Racing Honda Civic), 18 laps
2. Steven Kane (Airwaves BMW 320si), +0.282s
3. James Nash (Triple Eight Vauxhall Vectra), +1.321s
4. Tom Chilton (Team Aon Ford Focus), +2.109s
5. Tom Onslow-Cole (Team Aon Ford Focus), +2.493s
6. Jason Plato (Silverline Chevrolet Cruze), +3.919s
7. Mat Jackson (Airwaves BMW 320si), +4.376s
8. Rob Collard (WSR BMW 320si), +5.298s
9. Andy Neate (WSR BMW 320si), +6.185s
10. Paul O'Neill (Sunshine.co.uk H