Honda's Matt Neal admitted a disastrous start to his British Touring Car Championship race day at Thruxton left him 'staring down the barrel of a gun' before recovering to the podium in race three.

The BTCC points leader looked in real trouble after the first race when a late puncture undone all of Neal's hard work in qualifying, which saw him start the opener in a scarcely believable third despite carrying 75 kilos of ballast.

Not only did Neal's tyre failure cost him the chance of second position, the ensuing pileup, caused by his demise, also wiped his team mate and reigning champion Gordon Shedden out of the running.

However, Neal fought back to second place in race three and emerged from the third meeting still at the fore of the championship, albeit with a shared point's lead alongside WSR's Rob Collard.

"It was certainly good to finish on a high - it makes the journey home a lot more enjoyable - although in truth, it was a weekend that had promised so much more and I was staring down the barrel of a gun until the last race!" said Neal.

"Thruxton has always been a Honda circuit, and we proved that again with the ballast on-board in qualifying. I was surprised by just how strong we were carrying so much weight in race one and the puncture was nobody's fault - I was being super careful over the kerbs and the car was running like a dream."

Neal paid tribute to his Team Dynamics squad, who managed to turnaround two significantly wounded Honda Civic Type-R's in time to contest the second race.

"The Halfords Yuasa Racing boys did a stellar job to get us out again for race two in the nick of time - they had to deal with not just one but two cars in a million pieces - and then I was able to open the Civic Type R up again in race three and was flying at the end," the triple champion continued.

"I would never have thought I'd leave here still leading the championship after the first two races, so all's well that ends well, as they say."