Matt Neal crowned 2011 BTCC champion as Chilton wins final race

Honda Racing’s Matt Neal claimed an emotional third BTCC title of his career after beating team-mate Gordon Shedden, while Tom Chilton won the final race of the season at Silverstone.

Neal did exactly what he needed to do when he made a great start and then stayed out of trouble to finish two places ahead of his nearest rival and team-mate, Gordon Shedden, to wrap up the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title and add to his 2005 and 2006 titles.

With the top nine from race two reversed for race three, Chilton started from the front row of the grid and beat polesitter Alex MacDowall away when the lights went out to lead the race as the other Silverline Chevrolet of Jason Plato surged through to second place.

The Arena Ford man held onto his advantage and opened a small lead early on, while behind the tense battle for the championship between the Honda drivers saw Neal crucially make great start to move up to seventh from eighth, with team-mate Shedden right on his rear bumper.

Shedden was eager to make progress and started attacking Neal for the position, but could not find a way through in the early laps.

Up front, Plato began to put Chilton under big pressure for the lead, but the normally-aspirated Chevy Cruze did not have the grunt Plato needed to launch an attack into the tighter corners.

The case was similar behind them as Tom Boardman was hanging onto third place from Alex MacDowall, the latter trying everything at Brooklands and Luffield to make his way past.

Neal soon found himself being held up by another Arena Ford of Tom Onslow-Cole, but didn’t fight him too hard knowing that Shedden would need to pass him and then put more cars between them for the Scot to have a chance at his first title.

In the end, the Honda pair were too evenly matched as Shedden began struggling with understeer late on in the race, which left them under pressure from the crowd-pleasing Rob Austin in the NGTC Audi A4.

Austin made a clean move on Shedden that effectively killed off the Scot’s championship hopes, before passing Neal at Brooklands after Neal backed out to let the Audi go on it’s way.

The final lap of the race saw Chilton hold on to win his second race of the year ahead of Plato who relinquishes the title he won last year, while Boardman held on to third despite being practically pushed around the final lap by MacDowall.

Behind them in fifth was Andrew Jordan giving the Vauxhall Vectra a fond farewell race with Eurotech, while on the penultimate lap Austin barged Onslow-Cole aside at Luffield to snatch sixth.

Behind them, eighth was enough for Matt Neal to clich the championship, ahead of Frank Wrathall who made his way up to ninth after snatching the place from a gutted Shedden who missed out on the title after a great year for the series.

Here’s what Neal had to say on ITV4 after his success:

“It’s quite surreal, I didn’t think it was going to happen. One qualifying split us and that was what made the difference this weekend. That’s what sneaked it, it could so easily have been the other side of the garage.

“He’s (Shedden) driven demon all year and he’s kept me honest for sure.

“For everyone at Honda we’ve had a great car all year, it’s been consistent, the engine’s sung, the chassis has been sweet and you wouldn’t know how many people are behind this.

“We are a very close team “I think it’s a bit sweeter. I’ll probably wake up in the morning and it will have sunk in because it’s not sunk in yet!”

(Originally uploaded by  to Youtube)

Race three results:

1.  Tom Chilton              Ford            22m16.314s
2   Jason Plato              Chevrolet           1.481s
3   Tom Boardman             SEAT                2.489s
4.  Alex MacDowall           Chevrolet           2.782s
5.  Andrew Jordan            Vauxhall            5.600s
6   Rob Austin               Audi               11.517s
7.  Tom Onslow-Cole          Ford               12.585s
8.  Matt Neal                Honda              13.023s
9.  Frank Wrathall           Toyota             13.439s
10.  Gordon Shedden           Honda              13.799s
11.  Ollie Jackson            Vauxhall           17.119s
12.  Paul O’Neill             Chevrolet          23.662s
13.  Liam Griffin             Ford               23.927s
14.  Daniel Welch             Proton             25.737s
15   Martin Byford            Volkswagen         31.866s
16   Nick Foster              BMW                31.902s
17.  James Nash               Vauxhall           32.975s
18   James Thompson           Ford               34.363s
19   Tony Gilham              BMW                36.603s
20.  Lea Wood                 Honda              36.984s
21.  Mat Jackson              Ford               42.762s
22.  John George              Chevrolet          47.502s
23.  Rob Collard              BMW                + 1 lap
24.  Chris James              Chevrolet          + 1 lap
25.  Jeff Smith               Vauxhall           + 1 lap
DNF     Chris Swanwick           Audi                8 laps
DNF     Tony Hughes              Toyota              2 laps
DNF     Dave Newsham             SEAT                2 laps
DNF     Andy Neate               Ford                2 laps

FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:

01 Matt Neal 257
02 Gordon Shedden 249
03 Jason Plato 236
04 Mat Jackson 191
05 James Nash 191
06 Andrew Jordan 143
07 Tom Chilton 135
08 Robert Collard 108
09 Alex MacDowall 100
10 Paul O’Neill 91
11 Tom Boardman 76
12 Frank Wrathall 65
13 Tom Onslow-Cole 61
14 Nick Foster 47
15 David Newsham 31
16 Rob Austin 26
17 Jeff Smith 19
18 Andy Neate 15
19 Tony Gilham 12
20 Lea Wood 4
21 Liam Griffin 2
22 Daniel Welch 1
23 Aron Smith 1
24 Michael Caine 1
25 James Thompson 1
26 Oliver Jackson 0
27 Chris Swanwick 0
28 Shaun Hollamby 0
29 Martin Byford 0
30 John George 0
31 Tony Hughes 0
32 Chris James 0


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