23 April 2006
Round 5: Neal does the double in Ireland.
Team Halfords' Matt Neal took victory in the second race of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Mondello Park.
Neal took his second race victory of the day after starting from pole and making great restarts from two safety car periods.
As race one it was SEAT Sport UK's Jason Plato who was the nearest to the reigning champ, though Plato was under threat from Team RAC's Colin Turkington at the start and the restarts which helped Neal get away.
The safety car came out twice. At the start Gordon Shedden made a flying start from fifth on the grid but there was no room to brake his Integra sufficiently as he headed into turn one, Honda, and he tipped James Thompson's SEAT Leon into a half spin.
Thommo had started in third place and his car had to be passed by the rest of the field, causing plenty of disruption at the tight corner. It was subsequently hit by the VXR Astra of Fabrizio Giovanardi who had started from the pits after troubles on the formation lap, the Astra having received an engine change after the first race.
Thommo was out of the race and Giovanardi would pull up to retire several corners later. Also out after taking avoiding action from Thompson's spun car at Honda was VXR's Tom Chilton, whilst Gavin Smith managed to get through the gravel at the same time, though his car was down on pace for the rest of the race.
The safety car circulated at the head of the field for the next five laps with the interesting order of Neal, Plato, Turkington, Shedden, Mike Jordan, Mark Proctor, James Kaye leading the rest of the field behind.
Once back under racing conditions, Neal made a perfect getaway whilst Plato had Turkington's attentions behind but it was Turkington's Team RAC team-mate Rob Collard was on a charge taking Pinkney, Kaye and Proctor on the first green flag lap, with Gavin Smith behind him also moving up the order. Not doing as well was a spinning, but recovering Martyn Bell in the BMW and a Fiona Leggate who straight-lined off the track and into retirement.
Leggate's stranded Astra brought out the safety car for a second time, though it was not as long to wait for the restart this occasion. Matt Neal once more made a perfect restart and it was Gavin Smith moving forward again, taking a running wide Jordan with Dave Pinkney slipping through too.
Collard meanwhile had the Integra of Shedden ahead, but soon the Team Halfords car, which bore scars from its clash with Thompson, was passed by Collard in a move out of sight of the spectators and cameras. Whilst Collard was through, Shedden was not quite some time back, hinting at perhaps not the cleanest of passing moves.
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