Honda's Matt Neal fought his way to victory in a dramatic first race today at Brands Hatch, taking the lead only after some contact with Vauxhall's Paul O'Neill in the final corner.
In what had already been a dramatic race Paul O'Neill had emerged the lead driver after the pitstops. Prior to coming in Matt Neal had held a comfortable lead but difficulties on his pitstop had pushed him back down the field behind a battling Yvan Muller and Warren Hughes.
O'Neill had earlier done battle with Muller as his team-mate left the pits. O'Neill had already been in and was not shy in setting about his team-mate's car as it left the pits. Muller, a specialist at making his car wide, tried his best to keep O'Neill at bay but it was O'Neill who emerged the victor from that particular battle.
With O'Neill up ahead the near race long battle between Warren Hughes and Yvan Muller could restart. Hughes had got his MG off to a cracking start at the beginning of the race but had found himself staring at the rear of Muller's Vauxhall for the entire first stint. Hughes remained patient but the wily Muller wouldn't give the MG driver an inch. After the pitstops the action would get more dramatic.
Hughes had looked to have the measure of the Vauxhall up the hill into Druids Bend but as soon as Hughes managed to get anywhere near getting his car alongside Muller's the Frenchman would chop across his path. Muller was soon trailing bodywork because of this. Finally Hughes had his chance however, at the entry to Paddock Hill Bend.
Muller left enough of a gap for Hughes to have a go and the Englishman needed no second invitation. Muscling his way through both cars were soon fabulously sideways through the rollercoaster corner; Hughes was through, but Muller's sideways trajectory had taken him into the gravel, through which he travelled and returned to the track.
Matt Neal had used this to his advantage and sneaked through past the battling duo and continued with his own quest to get to the front. This Neal achieved and by the final lap he was right on the tail of O'Neill. The Vauxhall driver kept his cool but Neal simply applied car to car pressure to the back of O'Neill's car coming into Clark Curve and O'Neill had a half spin.
MG's Warren Hughes came across the recovering O'Neill and took out his steering which sent his car into the gravel at the end of a fine run.
Yvan Muller made the best of the situation ahead and took his battle scarred car into second place, just pinching the spot from the recovering O'Neill. MG's Anthony Reid came home fourth.
Gavin Pyper took Hilton Independent Trophy spoils in his GA Motorsports' Vauxhall Astra Coupe and Edenbridge Racing's Michael Bentwood Production class honours.