9 May 2004
Neal takes race one at Silverstone.
by Andy Stobart
Matt Neal took the first race of the day at Silverstone in the British Touring Car Championship, leading over the line by some 3.5 seconds from reigning champ, Yvan Muller.
Neal had been off to an absolutely storming start from third on the grid to take the lead from Jason Plato, but his start was almost too good. Thinking his lead from his great getaway must have been better than it was, Neal was displaced down to second by that man in the SEAT.
“I got a cracking start,” said Neal after the race, “but I was caught unawares by that blooming SEAT again, it was so quick in the first corner that it caught me out.”
With Plato now in front it was now a case of Neal choosing his time to get back to the front, just like he did in the first race at Brands Hatch two weeks ago.
After battling with Plato and stalking his prey Neal took the lead on the fourth lap, and those behind attacking Plato meant Neal had a easy ride once in front. His first lap in the lead saw Neal take a 1.5 second lead, and he built this up to a 3.5 second lead for the chequered flag.
Plato, meanwhile, had found himself in the clutches of Thompson and the pair indulged in some side-by-side action, which Plato ultimately won. The dicing duo were closed down by the hard-charging Yvan Muller who clearly was far happier with the Astra than he had been on Saturday.
Muller was past Thompson then set about closing in on his old foe, Jason Plato. Plato was dispatched on the eighth lap, and Muller made distance away from the SEAT man, but was unable to close on Neal up ahead.
Neal's pace was due to a set-up that suited the conditions perfectly. “We took at bit of a gamble with setup and boy was it beautiful – it was sweet as a nut,” explained a very happy Matt Neal after the race.
Muller had fared considerably better than he had yesterday, where he struggled in qualifying to end up eighth come the end of the thirty-minute session. “For sure it was good,” said Muller of working his way through the field, “Eight place wasn't the place I should have been, but I'm pleased with going from eighth to second”
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