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BTCC's Matt Neal looks forward to 'home' rounds this weekend

Monday, May 15 2017

Triple Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal is pumped up for a strong performance at Oulton Park this weekend (20/21 May), a circuit that he calls home.

Matt heads to Cheshire off the back of his first pole position for several seasons and his 60th race win at Thruxton. Despite this, three non-finishes have left him 58 points behind title leader Tom Ingram.

"I'm really chuffed with the car," Matt said. "The Type R's really strong this year and that's what I keep telling myself when I come away from each meeting! On the luck stakes, it just hasn't really fallen my way at the moment, which is unusual because normally I have good form and luck at the beginning of the year and then I lose it all at the end of the year, so I'm hoping that it's role reversal this year.

"I still haven't thought about [the 60th win] and it still hasn't sunk in, I'm just thinking about Oulton Park and the next challenge. I suppose the time to start dwelling on stats and that kind of thing is when you've finished and I don't think I have yet."

Oulton Park traditionally favours the rear-wheel-drive BMWs and Subarus, but Matt won race three at the Cheshire track last year, and he heads there with little success ballast. "I think qualifying is going to be really important round there," he said. "I managed to pull a stroke in the last race with the tyre strategy we were running last year, but people have looked to what we've been doing and they're all learning by it, so it makes it harder every year.

"The positive is I'll be a bit lighter than the other key guys in qualifying, and hopefully with the car's strengths that should bode me well. If I can get on the front two rows, then I can have a strong couple of races and be in the hunt."

Another positive for Matt is that the BMWs seem to be the only rear-drive cars on the pace so far this season. "It's up-and-down, isn't it?" said Matt of Subaru. "Ashley Sutton was setting fastest laps at Thruxton and coming through the field at Donington, so he's not slow in that thing. I don't know why the other ones aren't working at the moment, but Ashley's a threat."

Matt will be chasing his eighth Oulton Park BTCC race victory this weekend, and it's a circuit that has special memories for him. "My first ever team I raced for was based in Rochdale, which is about 30 minutes from there," he said. "It's where I first drove a car and first did a lot of testing, so it's almost like a home circuit for me. The cars weren't exactly the performance I'm driving round now, but I've got some fond memories of the place, it's been kind and mean to me but it's always great to go back there.

"The fans are always great there and you get a great following. Whether they are for Jason or for me, they're either cheering or booing, so it's always a great atmosphere."

Tickets for the BTCC at Oulton Park on 20/21 May are available from £27, with free entry for under-13s. For more information, call 0843 453 9000 or click here.