After securing pole position, Neal drove his Honda Civic to victory in Race 1, his teammate Gordon Shedden beat him out for Race 2 and the pair came eighth and tenth (starting on a reverse grid) behind race winner Tom Chilton in the Ford Focus. The points accrued were enough for Neal to claim the title with 257 points to Shedden's 249, while Chevrolet's defending champion Jason Plato landed third in the standings with 236. Mat Jackson and James Nash, who were both also in contention for the title up until the end of the third race, tied for fourth with 191 points.
In a further victory for the Honda, the team won the manufacturers' championship as well as the teams' title, while James Nash's Vauxhall-fielding 888 Racing team won the drivers' and teams' titles in the independent category. It was surely a high note for Honda on which to finish as it continues preparing a new NGTC-spec touring car based on the new European-market Civic for next year's championship, when it will seek to defend its titles once again and make it a hat trick. Follow the jump for the pair of full press releases.
Matt Neal has won the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after coming out on top against his Honda Racing team-mate Gordon Shedden in a nail-biting final race of the season at the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire yesterday (Sun 16 Oct).
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 yesterday's 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.
"My pole position lap on Saturday, with maximum ballast in my car, was one of the best laps of my entire career and it set things up perfectly for me today. If I hadn't won it I would have been disappointed for myself but over the moon for Gordon – he's become like a younger brother to me and even though he's only been in the BTCC for six years he is one of the absolute best out there on the track.
"But it's not just me who has won this championship – it is everybody in the Honda team. Gordon and I couldn't ask for a better company or bunch of people to drive for and they all richly deserve this clean sweep of titles."
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."
Newport Pagnell's Nash, a rising star of the BTCC, was justifiably proud to have won the Independents Trophy in what has been his first full season in BTCC after part campaigns in previous years.
The 25-year-old, overcoming the effects of flu, said: "What everyone at Triple Eight Race Engineering has achieved with the Vectra is incredible. We knew taking on the might of the manufacturers such as Honda and Chevrolet was going to be tough, but we've been right up there, won a race, had plenty of podiums and fastest laps and even led the championship at one stage. This has really filled me with confidence for the future and I really want to be back in 2012 and go for the outright championship."
Elsewhere at Silverstone, Frank Wrathall was fined £500 and had three penalty points applied to his competition licence for an on-track incident with Robert Collard. Both the WSR and AmD Milltek Racing.com teams were also fined £500 for failing to comply with officials' instructions. Daniel Welch was excluded from the results of race three in the championship's previous round at Brands Hatch after his car failed a technical inspection.
CLEAN SWEEP OF TROPHIES FOR THE HONDA RACING TEAM
Matt Neal has paid tribute to his Honda Racing Team after scooping the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone last weekend.
A victory, a second place and an eighth position were enough for Neal to take his two-litre turbocharged Honda Civic to title glory, just eight points ahead of his team-mate Gordon Shedden.
"What an incredible feeling," says Neal. "It has been such a tough fight this season, not only with all the rivals on the grid but from my team-mate 'Flash' Gordon too. It has been nip-and-tuck all the way between all of us and for the title battle to come down to the final race was so tense.
"Winning it is a great reward for all the team and we have had the most consistent car across the season. The engine has been sweet and the chassis has been strong at every circuit we have gone to. I have to thank everyone at Honda (UK) for giving me such a great platform to perform with and that is what has given us this championship."
Neal took his eighth win of the season at the Northamptonshire track and that set him up to clinch the crown for the third time in his career in the final race of the afternoon in front of trackside 30,000 fans. He said that the victory had been the key to his weekend, but also paid further tribute to team-mate 'Flash' Gordon too.
"I never thought I would win this once, let alone three times," adds Neal. "We have the new Honda Civic coming out for next season and we are going to work hard on that, and Flash is improving every step of the way, so the package should be great next year too. We'll both be pushing hard, but I think it would be great for him to get one. He deserves it."
Shedden said that he had a taste of the title showdown and is looking forward to another challenge for the title in 2012. He won the second race of the weekend and backed that up with a podium in the opener, but it wasn't quite enough for him to overhaul Neal in the final reckoning.
"Finishing first and second is a reward for the effort we have put in for the whole season," says 'Flash'. "We have worked so hard. I am getting closer to claiming the overall title and I am on Matt Neal's heels now. When you see how happy everyone is in the whole team, it's just mega, you can't be disappointed though even though I didn't take the crown.
"We have had a great car, Honda's support has been monumental and we've taken a clean sweep of all the trophies on offer for success in the British Touring Car Championship this season. How can that be a bad year? All we have to do is go out there and repeat it in 2012..."