After two seasons with the Honda Integra, a new challenge awaits Matt Neal
for the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship as he prepares for his first year at the wheel of Team Halfords' new Honda Civic.
The car was due to hit the track for the first time on the annual media day at Rockingham on Tuesday but was only rolled onto the track to complete its photographic commitments before being loaded back into the truck and heading back to base.
took the chance to catch up with Matt a day later at Brands Hatch to find out why the car hadn't made its debut and to look to the season ahead.
The Civic was at the media day on Tuesday but didn't hit the track. What were the reasons for that?
We just had a few niggly little things to sort out before we can hit the track with it. The target was to get it to the media day and we did that and now we might be out in it tomorrow [Thursday – although the car didn't appear as scheduled at Donington Park].
There has been a lot of hard work has gone into developing the Civic. Just how tough has it been for the team to try and get them ready for the season?
The one thing I have been trying to do is go down there every few days to see the guys and give them some support and let me see how hard they are working. Plus it stops me getting on the phone all the time saying 'When's my car going to be ready!?' They have been working extremely hard and hopefully we will soon have some fruits to bear from all their hard labour.
You aren't the only team switching to Super 2000 this year but you don't the resources of Vauxhall and haven't gone down the route of RAC in getting cars that you just need to put together, so for an Independent team, how big has the challenge been to develop and build the new car?
It's been massive to be honest as we had to start with a clean sheet of paper. We couldn't start as soon as we wanted as at the end of last year, we lost a few sponsors and didn't have other sponsorship in place – and you can't go our and spend money that you don't have. We had to try and do things without spending much money but we only got most of the sponsorship in place in early December so that is when they could start getting stuck in.
Looking at the car, the new Civic is a bit different to the model it replaces and has a very distinctive look. It seems like it will be one of those cars that fans will love the look of or will hate the look of.