For Matt Neal pole positions are a little like buses – wait for five years and then two come along in rapid succession!
Cobra drivers are ensuring that qualifying is becoming just as fascinating as race days. At Oulton Park, it was all about a battle between Cobra’s Matt Neal in his Team Dynamics Honda and the Pirtek BMW of Andrew Jordan – who also appreciates the advantage of a Cobra seat: The decisive moments came about half way through qualifying when Matt’s Honda got within a hundredth of Jordan’s practice time, before the Pirtek BMW went a quarter of a second quicker. Neal tried to respond on the next lap, just falling short, but then one lap later he beat Jordan by a tenth to take pole.
At the start of race one positions were immediately reversed with, Jordan using his rear-wheel-drive traction to take the lead into Old Hall, with Neal second and Colin Turkington slotting in behind.
While a titanic battle raged for third, Jordan pulled away from Neal, while Matt pulled away from the rest to consolidate second – it wasn’t until the final lap, when Jordan’s tyres started to degrade badly, that the two bunched up again with Neal almost drawing level on the run to the flag, but he couldn’t pass the BMW.
While Jordan took the chequered flag and Neal was second, other “Cobra” drivers who filled the top ten positions included Rob Collard (5th) ‘Flash” Shedden (7th), Rob Austin in his Handy Motorsport Toyota was 9th while Jake Hill edged out his Team Hard stablemate Michael Epps to take tenth in his VW CC.
Race two saw mixed fortunes for Cobra drivers: A hard chasing Rob Collard finished second in his West Surrey Racing BMW – barely a second behind the winner, with Matt Neal third and Gordon Shedden fourth – with Andrew Jordan (carrying maximum ballast) in fifth. Rob Austin was eighth while teammates Jake Hill and Michael Epps one again finished in formation – this time both edging up a place to finish ninth and tenth.
Cobra’s Championship leader Tom Ingram (Speedworks Toyota) won’t have such happy memories of the Cheshire circuit – he started race two in 31st place after retiring with broken suspension in race one. He again failed to finish when a shunt at the Island Hairpin ruled him out.
On to race three and it wasn’t just a 1-2-3 for Cobra drivers – they filled eight of the top nine positions: Reigning champion Gordon Shedden won the final British Touring Car Championship race of the day to strengthen his position at the head of the standings.
Andrew Jordan’s WSR BMW 125i M Sport left the grid like a rocket and he looked in command until a five-lap safety car period mid race brought the field back together. At the restart, Jordan was immediately under pressure from the pair of factory Hondas and then going into Cascades with three laps to go, Shedden made his move, bravely lunging down the inside of Jordan. Jordan was slightly off line after the move, and that allowed Neal to capitalise and make a pass as the cars went into the Island hairpin.
Behind the top three, Colin Turkington took fifth spot despite the fact he started 13th after an electrical problem earlier in the day. Rob Collard was sixth, Rob Austin was seventh (and the leading independent runner in his Handy Toyota), ahead of Mike Epps’ Team Hard VW CC and the sister VW of Jake Hill.
So, there’s been a bit of a shake up in the order, but after the fourth meeting of the season, divers using Cobra Seats still take the top five positions in the drivers table – with Shedden leading the way, followed by Rob Collard, Tom Ingram, Colin Turkington and Matt Neal – and Cobra seats are also at the “top table” in the other tables, with a 1-2 in the manufacturers championship (with BMW and Honda), a 1-2 in the Team Championship (with Halfords Yuasa Racing and Team BMW) Tom Ingram the top Independent Driver and Speedworks Motorsport the top Independent Team.