It was a fabulous day for Matt Neal
and the entire Team Dynamics run Team Halfords at the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship first round of 2005, with Neal rounding off his day on the podium top step for the second time, with Dan Eaves right on his tail as they crossed the start-finish line.
The final race of the day was the reverse grid race and saw the Lexus IS200 of Richie Williams grid up on pole, but the privateer team wisely chose to pit at the end of the formation lap and avoid being a mobile chicane.
The start, as expected, was frantic. James Pickford's SEAT had a clear track in front of him where the pitlane residing Williams was supposed to be, but got bogged down with wheelspin. Luke Hines should have had a good advantage, but was barged wide at the first corner meaning that Jason Plato
took the lead from fifth at the start, with the very rapid off the line and fiesty Rob Collard
in the WSR MG.
Matt Neal and Yvan Muller were soon showing their experience in the early corners, whilst in third place Gavin Smith was at one moment looking to pass Collard ahead of him, then the next moment he himself was passed by Matt Neal's impressive Integra.
Behind Neal Yvan Muller set the then fastest lap on the second tour, as well as overtaking team-mate Smith. Collard, with a heavy success ballasted MG, kept looking at the curiously down on pace SEAT ahead of him, but soon he too succombed to Matt Neal, though Yvan Muller was unable to get straight past.
Behind Muller Dan Eaves took on the mantle of fastest race lap holder as the leaders all closed right with Plato such that there was a five car train at the lead of the field.
On the sixth lap Muller was finally past Collard, and Eaves accepted the French enforced offer from the Hampshire MG driver as he nipped through too.
Ahead of this, Neal found a way past Jason Plato
for the lead, as did Muller, as did Eaves and Collard too for good measure. Expect the SEAT to be lighter on ballast for the next round.
The end of lap six saw the cars cross the line Neal, Muller, Eaves, Collard, Plato, Smith, Pickford, Turkington, Hines, Proctor, Williams. Noticable omission from the front runners was Colin Turkington, who was struggling with a complete lack of feeling from his steering after his contact with Jason Plato
in race two.