5 February 2012
Q&A - Matt Neal, Honda Racing
Matt Neal: “My final qualifying lap at Silverstone at the final meet, I was languishing down in 5th had just one set of tyres and one flying lap left. Low fuel load and using every inch of the circuit and more gave me pole and swung the championship decisively in my way”
Go 'Behind the Visor' as Andy Henley catches up with 2011 BTCC title winner Matt Neal....
Matt, you have just come off the back of a fantastic year having taken the title in a tough and closely fought championship. What was going through your head during your in-lap after you won the title?
Was a real mixed bag, disbelief, relief, euphoria, and then disappointment for Flash, we'd been so close this year especially, plus I do like and get on with the guy, so I know what it would have meant to him to win, but I wasn't going to give up, I'm still a fighter in the heart.
Other than when you secured the title, what was your standout race weekend of the season and what was it that made it so?
Stand out race was definitely Croft. Turbo cars had struggled there in in 2010 and had struggled with wet conditions. I managed to pull a one off lap in dry qualifying to get on the front row but wasn't convinced I could hang in there. I remember having breakfast the morning of the race, sat next to me was the MD of Honda UK Dave Hodgetts with his wife Christina. They said to me how do you think you'll do today? I said if it's dry hopefully top three, however if it rains forget it. So for it then to rain and me to win both the first two races, race one by about 1/100th of a second was pretty mega and very unexpected.
For one off laps it would be my final qualifying lap at Silverstone at the final meet, I was languishing down in 5th had just one set of tyres and one flying lap left. Low fuel load and using every inch of the circuit and more gave me pole and swung the championship decisively in my way.
The 2012 car looks to be coming along nicely, how keen are you to get back in the car or are you just enjoying the down time at the moment?
If honest I do love the down time. The racing and pressure of winning and to keep on winning can be quite stressful. That said, we have a new car built to the new NGTC regs, it's a new challenge, learning how to get the most out of and develop a new package, bit the new car does look awesome, so I am very excited about getting it on again for 2012.
What have you been up to during the winter break?
I've been working very hard actually, no flash winter breaks. Doing a lot with new car development, commercials, wheel business and everything else that goes with it. Saying that for 10 days at actual Christmas time I did something I regrettably get to do too little of the rest of the year, which is completely chill out and spent some proper quality time with the family relaxing.
2011 was a fantastic season but had the occasional skirmish both on and off the track, namely between yourself and Chevrolet driver Jason Plato. Can you tell us a little about how this rivalry came about and what made it come to boiling point this year?
I do think it's sometimes not helped by other people, those who see it as a way of either putting more of a story into the championship, or our adversaries as a way of keeping us two busy knocking ten bells out of each other while they carry on nicely. I think I try to fight my corner and do the best for me and my team; Jason does the same for his corner. We just have different opinions and different ways of going about that same job. He has his supporters whilst I have mine, what's right and wrong, I'm sure there is a moral question there somewhere isn't there? I don't like or agree with some of the things Jason gets up to, but I'm sure he will no doubt sing a very similar tune from his side. What I do know is whether we're best buddies or not he is still good, and TOCA know that if they put he and I on the same piece of tarmac for long enough we're going to end up falling out, it's just one of those things.
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