Neal wins, Eaves off
5 June 2005
Team Halfords' Matt Neal took victory in the first race of the day in the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch, whilst team-mate Dan Eaves outbraked himself to end up in the gravel.
In a very well behaved BTCC race there was very little action for the majority of the race, a complete contrast to the superb battles seen so far this season.
Yvan Muller fought off the efforts of Dan Eaves at the start, and kept the then championship leading Integra behind him, whilst behind Eaves lined up Turkington, Smith, Collard, Plato and Hines.
With such a close packed field on the short Indy Brands track, usually races involved a fair amount of contact, but this particular race day - for the first race at least - most of the field looked to be very well disciplined.
Gavin Smith did find his piece of track rather too crowded on the first lap and a gentle nudge from behind meant the rest of the field powered past the then fifth placed man, as he braked hard to avoid a spin.
Whilst the front four seemed to be getting into a safe driving formation, behind fifth-placed Rob Collard something of a traffic jam was developing, with Jason Plato in the lead Toledo the first of the drivers wanting past the MG. Plato stuck a nose in and made space to pass up at Druids, and very graciously made sure the door was left open for team-mate Luke Hines to follow through, though Collard soon put paid to thaty idea.
Up front Neal was opening up a gap from Muller, though never more that a second, whilst Dan Eaves in the heaviest car in the field, was looking more threatening to Muller, with Colin Turkington's VX Astra lying in wait just behind him.
Eaves looked lined up nicely for a move on Muller at the start of the tenth lap, and had figured all he needed do was brake a little later than the Frenchman and carry more speed down Paddock Hill Bend. Unfortunately Dan's braking was just a little too late to make the corner, and the Thruxton triple winner straight-lined himself straight into the gravel and out of the race.
All the action from his team-mate meant Neal now had a bigger gap, but Muller and Turkington worked hard at closing it down, and behind them in fresh air Jason Plato was gradually closing in on all of them.
Whilst Neal was unchallenged in front, Muller made a little mistake and Colin Turkington needed no second invitation as he got himself alongside and made his move into Surtees.
"He ran a wee touch wide so I wasn't going to pass on the opportunity," explained Turkington. "He just passed me because I made a mistake, he was a bit lighter and a bit quicker than me," confirmed Muller.
Elsewhere, Richie Williams Lexus was looking solid and only a couple of seconds adrift of the race leaders' pace, and he was even joined briefly with Ian Curley's car on track too at the same time. Unfortunately it looked like the SpeedEquipe squad was employing a tag team tactic; no sooner had Curley taken to the track then Williams took to the pits.
Up front Plato was sniffing about the rear of Muller, but was unable to make a real move with the few laps remaining, whilst ahead Colin Turkington wasn't really able to threaten Neal, though he did narrow the gap to the 'teg.
The Rob Collard roadblock was very effective for the magority of the race, but Luke Hines eventually found the way through, and Tom Chilton did too, but only for Collard to take it back. Chilton then had his attentions taken by veteran James Kaye such that Chilton only crossed the line some four thousandths ahead of the silver and red car.
Neal took the win, with Turkington and Muller joining him on the podium. "Over the moon, Dynamics is always a big team effort, I just managed to stay ahead there, I'm over the moon," said Neal after the race.
For Colin Turkington it was a well deserved second place after a difficult start to the year. "That's exactly what I was hoping for, we seem to have founbd a good setup we just need to keep going forward and maybe pinch a win," said the former MG driver on the podium.
For Muller third was the best he had hoped for. "Of course I'm not happy to be third," he said, "but it's the position I could do so I can be pleased with that."
1. Matt Neal
2. Colin Turkington
3. Yvan Muller
4. Jason Plato
5. Luke Hines
6. Rob Collard
7. Tom Chilton
8. James Kaye
9. James Pickford
10. Gavin Smith