Matt Neal has predicted that VX Racing team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi will be the man to beat as the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Oulton Park for the fourth round of the season.
Neal has been a model of consistency this season, with seven podiums in nine starts putting him at the head of the standings heading to Cheshire, while Giovanardi has endured a mixed start to his title defence and currently lies third.
The Italian failed to score in two of the three Brands Hatch races before taking his first win of the year at Thruxton. However, Donington Park didn't go to plan again for Giovanardi, who managed just a single podium finish and had a well-documented coming together with Harry Vaullkhard in the final race of the day.
However, Giovanardi has usually run well at Oulton Park in the past and Neal said he didn't think it would be any different this time around.
"I think Fabrizio is pretty fired up at the moment,” he said. “Whenever he's been to Oulton Park before his car has been very heavy on success ballast and he's still been able to wring the car's neck and get results around there. This time he'll be that little bit lighter on ballast. When he gets fired up he doesn't get ragged, he just digs deeper and is a supreme performer. He'll bounce back."
Neal meanwhile will be forced to carry maximum ballast on his car once again thanks to his position at the head of the standings and he admitted it would be a challenge to retain his place out front.
"I predict I'm going to have my hands full this weekend and I'm also wary that it only takes one race for to all suddenly turn around,” he said. “Oulton promotes close and exciting racing and at the minute there are seven or eight drivers who could genuinely win the title and a fair few more who have also shown they can win races.
"It's also a circuit that traditionally draws one of our biggest crowds of the year. There's so much going on for the spectators - they can see so much and there's a great atmosphere."