Matt Neal has had his first taste of the Vauxhall Vectra he will use next season in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after joining his new VX Racing team for a day of testing at Silverstone.
Neal was announced as team-mate to Fabrizio Giovanardi at the conclusion of racing at Thruxton last weekend and wasted little time in getting behind the wheel of his machine – with his new contract with the team starting earlier than was initially reported.
“The new car is great, very different to what I'm used to,” he told Crash.net
during a brief break in testing. “It's just a case of learning about it and the plus points and not so plus points! Because the cars are built to the same regulations you are looking for minute little things so it is a bit of an eye-opener at the moment.
“It's a very good package and has won the championship so I'm lucky to be in it. We are trying a few new things and preferences that I might like that I have got used to in the Honda over the last few years, so it is interesting for both sides.
“Partnering Fabrizio is going to be a big challenge and is one of the reasons why it appealed to me. It's me getting out of my own box and my own comfort zone to join one of the worlds best.”
Neal also responded to criticism he has received following the final race of the weekend at Thruxton when, on his final outing in the Team Halfords Honda Civic, he was seen to wave Tom Chilton's Vauxhall by before launching a more defensive drive in front of arch rival Plato.
“Things have been going on in racing,” he said. “SEAT and Jason Plato don't pay my wages and Vauxhall do now. Vauxhall had spoken to me beforehand and my team spoke to me beforehand. There was communication on the radio in the race but it has nothing to do with Jason's opinion of me or my opinion of him. There are a lot more people involved in the grand scheme of things.
“Later on in the race I did have a gear change problem but you look at things that have happened in the past with people like Steve Soper and it's been done before in British or German touring cars. At no point did I feel I was holding Jason up, my car was quicker and he struggled for Fabrizio's pace in the third race.”