Rob Collard and Matt Neal have become embroiled in a war of words following the opening rounds of the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season at Thruxton, after a controversial coming together in the final race of the weekend.

Collard, who had been forced to retire from race one earlier in the day after damaging his car in contact with Paul O'Neill, was hoping to end his home weekend on a high in the final race and led through the early stages ahead of the similar BMW 320si of Steven Kane.

Neal meanwhile stormed through the field to run third behind the pair before making a move to get ahead of Kane around the outside at the final chicane.

Neal then tried to get ahead of Collard through the second part of the corner but the resultant contact saw Collard spin off into the barriers and left Neal to circulate slowly back to the pits to retire.

Stewards reviewed the incident but will not make a final decision until the second rounds of the season at Rockingham in order to examine other evidence.

The failure to finish leaves Collard with just four points from the opening meeting of the year and he was far from happy with his Honda rival at the end of the weekend.

"I was having a good battle with Steven for the lead," he said. "I was quicker than him on some parts of the track and although he was getting a run on me out of Church corner, I was comfortable defending under braking into the chicane. Then Neal got involved with one of the most amateurish pieces of driving I've ever seen in the BTCC.

"Having watched the replays of the incident, its clear Neal was entirely in the wrong and for him say in a TV interview afterwards that it was my fault just shows his incredible arrogance.

"He caused a lot of unnecessary damage to my car and I hope the BTCC Clerk of the Course applies the necessary penalties before Rockingham."

Collard's West Surrey Racing team boss Dick Bennetts was also far from amused with the incident, which leaves the defending champions with work to do ahead of the next round of the year.

"Neal clearly has a quick car as a result of concessions granted to front wheel drive cars over the winter," he said. "For him to deliberately drive into Rob the way he did was absolutely unacceptable and dangerous.

"Most of us are operating on pretty tight budgets this year and we're now looking at a fifteen to twenty thousand pound repair bill for Rob's car. With Neal being the most experienced driver in the field there can be no excuses for his actions."

Unsurprisingly however, Neal's view of the incident was somewhat different, with the double champion feeling he had missed out on a chance of taking his first win of the year.

Neal had also failed to score in one of the earlier races following a puncture in race one.

"Rob just backed Steven up going into the chicane, obviously to get Steven busy with me," he was quoted by the Sun, "but he braked too early, left the door open and didn't look around. I spoke to the race officials afterwards and they admitted they didn't believe Rob knew I was there.

"He just turned in and that was on the apex, so end of story. I was cheesed off about it, too. I had a car capable of winning the race.

"Rob needs to be pretty careful because he is opening Pandora's Box with his verbal digs. He has been involved in stuff all the way through -- so he is throwing stones in glass houses."



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