Honda's Matt Neal admits the new Civic Type-R has already exceeded the team's expectations as the three-time champion shares the BTCC points lead with Jack Goff following his race three victory at Brands Hatch.

2012 champion Gordon Shedden had already previously christened the 2015 Civic Type-R after heroically holding off the returning Andy Priaulx in an epic drag-race to the line before Neal later added to that with a victory of his own in race three.

Like Shedden, Neal's defensive capabilities had to be called upon when MG's Goff - chasing his first BTCC win - threw everything at the Honda during the final third of the race.

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The Team Dynamics driver ran the ill-performing soft tyre in race three and said the early safety car ultimately allowed him to preserve just enough grip to fend off Triple Eight MG, which ended the 27-lap glued to the Civic's rear bumper.

Nobody - including Honda themselves - had expected the Type-R to win so early on in the car's development but have ended up leaving the opening round firmly mired in the championship race already.

"We came here with hopes but realistic expectations," Neal told crash.net. "We hoping for top-six and maybe fighting for a possible podium. We were trying to be realistic, never thought we would get two out of three - wow!

"I was just over the moon that we got that win with Flash [Shedden] for Honda, Yuasa and all concerned, never mind one for myself.

"In the third race I thought this could easily go wrong because up until then I hadn't had a very good day really. I sort of found myself in the middle of it all day.

"The Honda's always looked after the tyres - especially the soft - a wee bit better than the rest and there was a bit more rubber down along with it being warmer. So that's why we planned to run the soft tyre in race three today. Maybe that's just a bit of experience helping us on our behalf but it certainly worked for us."

As a result of sharing the championship lead with Goff, Neal will carry full success ballast to Donington Park, a scenario in which ultimately caused Honda's demise last season.

Neal, though, is optimistic that this season vastly improved Honda engine should negate the team's previous issues in running such a large amount of weight.

"We're under no illusions for Donington Park. The BMW's have been very quick as have Jason [Plato] and all the other BMR guys. It hasn't gone their way this weekend so they'll be light at Donington whereas both Flash and I are going to be carrying weight," Neal continued.

"Yeah the engine has historically been an Achilles heel for us but the new Honda engine is just fantastic. We're right up there in the speed traps meaning we can really attack and push on.

"It will be tricky to compete with the Volkswagen's but we're in the hunt and the progress that Neil Brown has made on the engine will certainly help us."