As usual, Knockhill provided a thrilling days racing, with blue skies providing ITV with countless opportunities to show off the dramatic circuit in all its glory. Panoramic shots of the distant Forth bridges and the rolling Fife countryside interspersed coverage of three BTCC races which had more than their fair share of incidents – not least the high speed off in Race 1 which saw Josh Cook plant his BTC Racing Honda Civic boot first in the safety barriers at Butcher’s.
The impact left Cook’s rear wheels a foot closer to his front ones than they were at the start of the race and provided a salutary reminder of the importance of a perfectly fitting race seat – you can never be sure of the direction of forces that will be at play when your seat is called in to action! It was good to hear Josh complement the job his seat had done when he was interviewed, remarkably, sitting on the grid for the start of Race 2.
It wasn’t only Josh’s Cobra seat that had performed miracles – it was a phenomenal effort from the entire BTC Racing team to get the car repaired in just a couple of hours for the start of the second BTCC race of the day - and hats off to the guys at Halfords Yuasa Racing for crossing the pit lane and helping out, too.
Halfords Yuasa Racing is one BTCC team that has put its faith in Cobra Seats for over a decade and in that time we have been delighted to celebrate with them as they have picked up a helmetful of titles including a trio of MSA British Touring Car Drivers’ Championships for Matt Neal, three more MSA BTCC Drivers’ Championships for Gordon Shedden and no fewer than five MSA BTCC Team's Championships.
Last season, Dan Cammish came within a couple of laps of winning the Driver’s Championship in only his second season, but this season the team has suffered one misfortune after another – including a pre-season mountain bike accident for Matt Neal that left him nursing a broken clavicle, fractures to his shoulder, a broken rib and a collapsed lung.
We thought it was worthwhile focusing on how the weekend panned out for Matt and Dan as the Honda BTCC team got their season back on track with a consistent showing with both drivers scoring points in all three races in their front-wheel-drive Honda Civic Type R race cars, on a circuit that favoured the rear-wheel-drive cars of their lead championship rivals.
Saturday qualifying on the tight 1.3-mile Fife circuit is always challenging but Dan Cammish found an early gap in the traffic to set a time good enough for fourth grid spot, less than two tenths of a second behind the pole position car of Ashley Sutton.
Matt Neal was also highly competitive until an error exiting the chicane sent him into a heavy impact with the tyre wall. The Halfords Yuasa Racing mechanics set about an overnight rebuild to ensure Neal could take up his ninth start spot on the Race 1 grid.
Cammish made a good start and at the end of the first lap dived inside local man Rory Butcher at the hairpin to claim third. But contact from a rival then sent the Honda over the edge of a gravel trap, Dan dropping to sixth where he remained to the chequered flag.
Neal maintained ninth spot in the early laps in his newly rebuilt car, and was then able to pick off rivals Aiden Moffat and Mike Bushell to finish the first race just behind his team-mate.
At the start of Race 2 Cammish held onto his sixth place and then as cars clashed ahead of him the Honda man seized the opportunity to grab fourth. He then repeatedly challenged Tom Ingram for the final podium spot but was unable to find a way past.
A determined performance from Matt Neal saw the BTCC veteran fight his way up the field to again finish just behind his team-mate in fifth. But his weekend then took another challenging turn when he was judged to have made a false start. The resultant 10-second penalty dropped Matt to 15th.
The reverse-grid draw for the final race put Cammish into eighth starting spot and he held his place through the first lap. Neal, coming through the field from 15th, just avoided a major accident that left two wrecked cars in the middle of the track and brought out the red flag.
On the restart Cammish again got away well and was able to overcome rivals Jake Hill and Chris Smiley to finish sixth. Neal, meanwhile, found himself in a frantic multi-car midfield battle, making up three places to finish 12th and earn potentially vital points for the Honda team.
Following a frantic start to the delayed 2020 season with 12 races in just five weekends, Halfords Yuasa Racing will now enjoy a welcome three-week break before the next rounds at Thruxton on 20th September where the Hondas have traditionally been very competitive.
The Honda team has enjoyed its strongest success record at the fast Hampshire track, scoring 12 victories there since 2011 including a memorable day in 2013 when all three races were taken by the team. Dan Cammish won at Thruxton last season and he and Matt Neal will be keen to add to the victory record and maintain their Championship challenge.