BTCC – Matt Neal takes the final race of the day at Knockhill

Mercedes one-two early in the race but it wasnt to be (Photo by Marc Waller)

Mercedes one-two early in the race but it wasnt to be (Photo by Marc Waller)Honda Yuasa driver Matt Neal has won the final race of the day at Knockhill after a thrilling race which saw an all Mercedes front row for the first time in BTCC history.

Initially it was Adam Morgan who led from Aiden Moffat in his similar Mercedes A Class. Morgan pulled away slightly from Moffat who edged away from Neal as the Honda driver had to fend off Jason Plato.

Plato eventually lost pace leaving Neal free to challenge the Mercedes. First Moffat was despatched before Neal set after Morgan. It didn’t look likely that he would catch the Wix racing driver but Morgan’s Mercedes lost time after hitting debris left by a back marker. This gave Neal the break he needed and he dived past on the penultimate lap.

With Plato fading fast, the chasing pack behind him was led by Austin in his Audi but behind that Priaulx and Tordoff were fighting their way through. Priaulx soon passed Austin before setting his sights on Plato. He tapped him twice which unsettled the BMR VW enough to let not just Priaulx but Austin through as well. Tordoff meanwhile, was making some great passing moves, first taking Shedden before taking two cars at once when he went around the outside of both Jackson and Jordan.

Tordoff then started a battle with Austin but contact sent them both off the track, with Tordoff coming off worst as he headed for retirement in the pits. On the next lap Collard also spun off leaving Priaulx as the team’s sole representative.

Neal closes on Moffat (Photo by Marc Waller) Priaulx menaces Moffat (Photo by Marc Waller) The battle for third intially kept the Mercedes duo ahead (Photo by Marc Waller) Moffat is congratulated by his team for what would become third (Photo by Marc Waller) Neal celebrates with a hug (Photo by Marc Waller) The final podium until Moffat was handed third (Photo by Marc Waller)

Priaulx seemed determined to pass Moffat but by now had little time to do it. After hitting the Scottish driver as they crossed the line he then pushed his way past on the penultimate lap. Priaulx went on to take the podium but officials have given him a post-race penalty of 3.5 seconds demoting him to fourth and giving Moffat his first ever overall podium. Sadly he never got the chance to celebrate it officially with the trophy being handed over from Priaulx a long time after the race and podium was over.

So with Neal, Morgan and Moffat in the top three and Priaulx demoted to fourth, Rob Austin took fifth to end an up and down weekend for the Excocet Alcosense racing team. They were reduced to one car at the start of the day when the team’s other driver, Hunter Abbott was forced to rush back to London as his wife went into labour. Abbott later announced that his wife had given birth to a healthy baby boy.

Plato held onto sixth from Andrew Jordan. Eighth and ninth were Shedden and Jackson with Martin Depper taking the final spot in the top ten.

The remaining points finishers were Newsham, Goff, Cook, Jeff Smith and Turkington. Cook’s thirteenth place finish gives him the Jack Sears trophy for the weekend. What had looked like being a close battle over three races between him and Bushell came to nothing after Bushell’s engine trouble in race two. Bushell had looked set to challenge in race three only to fade when suspension damage from contact caused his tyres to overheat.

Despite having a poor weekend, Plato still leads the championship from Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal. Turkington holds on to fourth spot from Jordan, Priaulx and Tordoff. Adam Morgan in eighth is probably the last driver still in contention for the title but realistically he is probably too far adrfit of the leaders.

The next rounds are at Rockingham in Northamptonshire in just two weeks time. Tickets are available from the Rockingham website.

Full results from today’s races as well as the latest championship standings are available from TSl timing.  By Marc Waller

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