HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship points leader Matt Neal insists he would be 'cutting his own throat' if he were to discount the challenge of Vauxhall team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi in the race for the 2009 crown.
Neal leads the Italian by 21 points going into his home round of the season this weekend at Donington Park after failing to score on two occasions during the opening races of the year at Brands Hatch.
Although the double champion rebounded to score his first win of the year at Thruxton last time out, he heads to Donington in a position he admits he prefers as the 'hunter rather than the hunted' and Neal admitted he would be stupid to discount the Italian with 24 races of the season still to run.
"Fabrizio had a bum day at Brands Hatch,” he conceded to BTCC.net
. “It happens, but I'm sure he'll not be letting it happen again any time soon. So I'm therefore keeping my mouth tight shut as I would only cut my own throat!"
He added: "Out of all the people I've raced against and alongside, I must speak very highly of Fabrizio. You think you have a good lap in your pocket and he'll find something extra nine times out of ten. You have to be having a very good day to be with him, never mind edge in front of him. You only have to view his racing CV to confirm this. Plus I think he now knows more English swear words than I do!
"As for leading the championship at the moment, that is great but really means nothing. All it means is my car will be carrying more success ballast than anyone else's. It's October time you need to be saying the same..."
Neal enjoyed one of his finest hours in the BTCC at Donington back in 1999 when he picked up a cheque for £250,000 after winning a race as an Independent and he will now hope to create more memories on the third race weekend of the year – one he expects to draw in the crowds.
"Sure, Donington is one of the closest tracks to where I live, so it's great to have friends and family around,” he said. “It's also the place of our £250k big one back in '99, so does hold a lot of special memories for me. I like the circuit lay-out, too - it has a good mixture of everything.
"Any member of public who has been to a BTCC round at Donington knows they are in for a very exciting and action-packed day. For anyone thinking of giving it a go, the level of entertainment and racing spectacle is unrivalled. The closeness, the noise and speed - it's a fantastic day out for the whole family with three BTCC races and cracking support championships racing through the day as well."