Matt Neal

Friday Video – Honda Civic Tourer BTCC Trophy Challenge

There’s no BTCC action this weekend, but instead Honda has released a video to promote the link between the Honda Civic Tourer road car, and the successes of its racing counterpart. We’ll be honest, it’s a little bit cringeworthy, but probably no more so than that Rockstar energy hat Shedden usually wears around the paddock.

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Don’t call it an estate, it’s a ‘Tourer’ but the load-lugging version of the Honda Civic packs a sizeable space for cargo; up to almost 1,700 litres with the seats down. So, the obvious question was how many trophies can you fit inside it. Perhaps don’t try to compare it to some of Honda’s greatest marketing hits, such as ‘Cog’ or ‘Impossible Dream’ as you might be disappointed. But anyway, here’s the video:

Yeah – make of that what you will. Safe to say none of those trophies in there are probably Academy Awards for acting, but now at least you know just how much silverware will fit in the rear of a Civic Tourer.  (more…)

BTCC 2014 – Donington Park – Rounds 4, 5 and 6

The second race weekend of the 2014 BTCC calendar produced more dramatic and controversial racing. What did our BTCC Correspondent make of it? Read on for his in-depth analysis. 

A Weekend to Savour for Plato

BTCC 2014 Donington 001

It was a great weekend for title contender Jason Plato in the latest rounds of the British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park. Plato secured a huge haul of points thanks to a victory, a second and a sixth place which meant he finished the weekend as joint leader of the championship with reigning champion Andrew Jordan.

Saturday qualifying saw Plato take pole from Gordon Shedden, teammate Sam Tordoff, Colin Turkington, Aron Smith and Alain Menu in what was an impressive performance for the two VW drivers. This time last year, I remember complaining about the lack of action at both Brands Hatch and at Donington Park, but the same cannot be said this year. This weekend’s racing was certainly helped by changeable weather conditions.

Race One brought a damp track, leading to some tough decisions between the teams on whether to go with wets or slicks. The main men went wets and the rest followed. The start saw Plato get away cleanly with Turkington coming through from 4th to take 2nd in the, as ever, fast starting BMW. However, Tordoff soon took the position from Turkington with a great move down the Craner Curves and Turkington was soon back to his starting position as Shedden took 3rd from him not long after. Tordoff was working hard to put Plato under pressure and on the second lap he was only 0.2s behind him. Other second lap action saw Rob Collard make great strides from his starting position of 13th as he made his way up to 8th and Dave Newsham went sideways down the Craners after contact with Adam Morgan’s A-Class.

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BTCC 2014 – Brands Hatch Indy – Rounds 1, 2 and 3

The British Touring Car Championship got itself back on track at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. Just what did our BTCC Correspondent make of the opening three rounds? Read our in-depth coverage below:

2014 BTCC BHI 001

2013 BTCC champion Andrew Jordan was in a defiant mood as he started the defence of his title at the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit with 2 victories. However, the usual protagonists were not too far behind him and the standings were very close at the end of the first BTCC meeting of the year.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of the Indy Circuit, it’s just too short and I find it ridiculous that we’ve got a serious championship with cars doing sub 49 second lap times. Having said that, I was able to bare it more this year than on previous occasions and that was because there was a better quality of racing. This was also the first event where a few new rules or tweaks to the rules have been introduced, most notably the track limits of the circuits have been considerably tightened to encourage the drivers to stay on the track, rather than gaining advantages from run-off areas.

One man, who seemed to have no problem staying on track in qualifying was Jordan who took pole from Jason Plato by 0.012s. Colin Turkington lined up third ahead of the Yuasa Honda Racing duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, while there was an impressive 6th for Tom Ingram in his first BTCC qualifying. The ridiculousness of the Indy Circuit was shown by the fact only eight tenths of a second separated the top 23 drivers.

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Race One saw a clever start by Jordan and Plato as they worked together to box in the fast starting Turkington, as all the top drivers held position. Further down the pack, returning double champion, Alain Menu, had a nightmare start as he lost the back of his car at Paddock Hill Bend sending him sprawling across the track where he was lucky not to be collected by someone. Menu was ok to continue after a quick excursion onto the grass. (more…)

BTCC 2014 – EngageSportMode’s Full Championship Preview

Let Battle Commence…

BTCC 2014 Media Day

The time for talking is over, the time for pre-season testing is over, the time for relaxing on a Sunday afternoon is over; the British Touring Car Championship is back for a new campaign. Admittedly, I haven’t been all that interested in the close season, perhaps more due to a young child, but that’s not to say I haven’t been keeping my eye on events. I’d highlight 2 major additions to the 2014 driver-up as being the biggest news from the pre-season build up.

The 1997 and 2000 champion Alain Menu returns to the BTCC for the first time since his one-off appearance at Thruxton in 2007 to help Fabrizio Giovanardi win the title, and for his first full season since his title-winning campaign in 2000. Funnily enough, it’s the man who he helped win the title in 2007 who is also returning. Double champion from 2007 and 2008, Giovanardi also returns with Airwaves Racing and the Ford Focus. Menu has joined the confident CHROME Edition Restart Racing team, driving a Volkswagen CC. The addition of the duo forms a line-up of 7 BTCC champions on the starting grid.

2014 BTCC 7 Former Champions

All 7 champions will no doubt be hoping to add another crown to their former glories. Reigning champion Andrew Jordan will be eager to retain his title after fighting so hard to claim his first crown last time out. However, standing in his way will be the Honda duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in their now estate Civic, as well as stalwart Jason Plato and ESM favourite, Colin Turkington. I’m not sure whether the cars of Giovanardi and Menu will be strong enough to sustain a full title challenge, but I’m sure they’ll be somewhere in the mix.

I’ve compiled a few thoughts and predictions about the 31 car strong grid for 2014 below: (more…)

BTCC Round 10 – Brands Hatch GP Review

Although we already know the main outcome from last weekend’s final round of the 2013 British Touring Car Championship, there was still plenty of action to be covered by our correspondent.

Jordan takes his first BTCC crown!

BTCC 2013 Brands Hatch GP 000

Andrew Jordan secured his first BTCC Drivers’ Title after another pulsating weekend of action. However, it wasn’t as easy as I’d previously predicted as he went in to the final race still needing a good points finish to clinch the trophy.

The weekend’s major talking points started in FP1, where Airwaves Racing driver Aron Smith had a massive smash. Smith was taking evasive action from the cars in front of him before he found the barrier, turning over his Focus. Later on in qualifying, Matt Neal also found the barrier with a heavy hit. Neal put a wheel wide on the exit of Paddock Hill Bend and spun across the track before going head-on into the barrier. The crash left Neal visibly shaken and sore from the on-board shots and it will have not helped his broken finger one jot.

However, one man with no such problems in qualifying was Jason Plato, who led home yet another MG 1-2 from Sam Tordoff. Jordan had a positive qualifying result taking third from Gordon Shedden, Adam Morgan and Colin Turkington. The atrocious weather conditions that met the teams on Sunday morning meant that Race One was delayed by around 25 minutes.

BTCC Brands Hatch GP 2013-001

When the race eventually got underway, Plato and Tordoff made excellent starts off the line and held position initially, before Shedden soon took Tordoff for second. The ever unfortunate Turkington was slightly tagged from behind by one of his teammates, Rob Collard, which sent him into a spin, where he was duly collected head-on by his other teammate, Nick Foster. Turkington’s now probably lost count of the amount of times he’s been tagged this season, I certainly have. Lap 1 also saw Neal make good progress through the field following his Saturday incident, but Frank Wrathall was once again out. (more…)

BTCC Round 9 – Silverstone Review

Plato at the double but Jordan remains in control

MG celebrate a 1-2 in the first race of the day.

MG celebrate a 1-2 in the first race of the day.

The penultimate weekend of the 2013 BTCC season took place at Silverstone and produced some excellent close racing. As I have previously mentioned, I am not a fan of these ridiculous laps that take last than a second to complete, but for once I could get away with it because of the high-speed nature of the National Circuit.

Qualifying on Saturday produced one of the closest sessions that I can remember, but then again, there’s going to be less variance when the lap takes less than a minute to complete! Jason Plato took the honour of pole, ahead of his teammate Sam Tordoff, a fabulous third for Dave Newsham, Colin Turkington, and an impressive fifth and sixth for Frank Wrathall and Jack Goff.

The MG pair were able to get off the line cleanly in Race One, with Tordoff getting the better start and he was able to challenge Plato for the lead. However, after the pair had a small rub of body work, it allowed Turkington to nip through and take second as Plato just held onto the lead. Towards the end of the first lap, as the cars approached Brooklands, Newsham was able to challenge for second – that was until he lost it on cold tyres and went spinning backwards.

The second lap brought a decent sized crash as Will Bratt found the pit wall and it appeared that Nick Foster and Andy Neate took evasive action to avoid him, but could only find the gravel trap, which eventually resulted in the first safety car of the day. However, despite appearing to pass under yellow flags, Tordoff was able to pass Turkington to re-take second and a little further down Rob Collard was able to make a pass on Wrathall. (more…)

Top Gear Review – Series 20, Episode 2

So after the initial hurrah of a new series, we’re now at that awkward second episode stage for this season of Top Gear. Check out what EngageSportMode made of it below. Warning, contains spoilers, but is gluten-free.

Top Gear Series 20, Episode 2 – UK Air Date 7th July 2013

EngageSportMode wasn’t hugely complimentary of last week’s opening episode. So, what would the second episode bring us? Hopefully more car reviews and news, and less staged stunts and painful puns. (more…)

2013 BTCC Round 5 – Croft Review

With the sunburn now just about faded, and shoes dried out, here is the full review of the 2013 visit of the British Touring Car Championship at Croft Circuit by our correspondent.

Turkington Dominates at Croft

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Colin Turkington achieved, not only his best results since his return to the BTCC, but his best ever points haul in a BTCC weekend, at Croft. However, he wasn’t the only man to leave EngageSportMode’s local circuit smiling, as Matt Neal enjoyed a solid weekend to leave himself with a good gap at the top of the championship as we head into another six-week break.

The eBay Motors BMW 125i M Sport had looked strong from the start of the weekend, with it proving impressive in free practice, allowing Rob Collard to come home first in FP2. Saturday qualifying saw Jason Plato top of the charts heading into the final run, but Turkington produced an outstanding effort to put himself at the top, gaining a qualifying lap record around Croft Circuit in the process.

Race One saw Turkington line up first, ahead of Plato and ‘The Big Three Hondas.’ Despite my admiration for Turkington, I didn’t give him much hope in this race. As the lights went out, Turkington made a clean start heading to the first corner, Clervaux, but the most impressive start was made by Collard. He started sixth on the grid and made the most of the great BMW start and was just about second as the cars went into the first corner. Croft is an extremely tight circuit in places, no more so than in the first couple of corners, and Collard was tapped by Plato sending him into a 360 spin which was enough to send him down the field.  The incident caused a small amount of damage to Plato’s steering and suspension, but it was enough damage to make Plato struggle in the race.

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BTCC @ Croft 2013 – Photo Gallery

After yesterday’s teaser, EngageSportMode can now bring you the full photographic wonderment captured at Round 5 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on the 23rd June 2013.

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Still to come this week is a full report from ESM’s BTCC Correspondent, along with some reflections on how this race weekend compared to others we’ve experienced at Croft. There may also be some I Could Afford That/Classified Dreaming action too.

All images copyright EngageSportMode.com 2013

ESM @ Croft BTCC 2013 – Quick Highlights

Wow! EngageSportMode spent today at the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire. We left sunburnt, soaked and satisfied after a great day’s BTCC action, including a superb three races for ESM favourite Colin Turkington. ESM’s BTCC correspondent will be bringing you a full raceday review soon, and there will also be some additional features and stories too.

We’ve also got a lot of photographs to share, but for now here is a snippet of EngageSportMode’s big day out:

Check back soon for more BTCC news and stories from ESM.