Croft BTCC: Neal bumps past Cook to win thriller
Honda’s Matt Neal pulled off a spectacular bump-and-run victory on the final lap of a dramatic second British Touring Car Championship race at Croft.
Team Dynamics driver Neal, who had started seventh on the grid, muscled his way past the identical BTC Racing-run Civic Type R of Josh Cook at Sunny In at the last gasp.
It was only the last of the major incidents of the race, in which the top two in the championship – Colin Turkington and Ash Sutton – both failed to score points. Turkington started his West Surrey Racing-run BMW 330i M Sport from third on the grid, but an uncharacteristic error into Clervaux on the opening lap sent him into the gravel trap and then the barrier, causing a brief safety-car interlude.
Sutton took advantage to move up to third, chasing Cook and the AmD-run MB Motorsport Honda of Jake Hill. That was until the sixth lap, when Sutton made one of his habitual late lunges into the hairpin, only for the two cars to collide and briefly get locked together.
Both appeared to have survived, but Sutton had sustained a front-right puncture and his Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50 flew off the road at the chicane. Sutton pitted and rejoined, but finished a lap down.
Neal was now up into third, and he passed Hill for second with six laps remaining. Cook was clearly struggling on the maximum 60kg of success ballast for his victory in the opening race, and Neal, on 30kg, reeled him in.
They were together with two laps remaining, and Neal made a bid at Sunny on the penultimate lap before his attempt on the final tour. The two Hondas made contact, and Cook did a stunning job to hold the sideways slide and continue still in second.
The incident meant that the top four finishers were covered by 1.616 seconds, with Neal heading home Cook, Hill and the Speedworks Motorsport-run Toyota Corolla of Tom Ingram.
Ingram’s performance continued a superb recovery from being banished to the back row of the grid for race one. He began the second race from 13th on the grid, but charged his way up the order, inflicting some battle wounds upon the Toyota along the way.
The second works Honda of Dan Cammish was another on the move, the Yorkshireman picking his way through a hectic fight with Bobby Thompson (Trade Price Cars Audi), Adam Morgan (Ciceley Mercedes) and Tom Oliphant (WSR BMW) to move into sixth. Cammish then passed the BTC Honda of Tom Chilton with four laps remaining to take fifth, with Chilton completing a Honda 1-2-3-5-6.
Chilton will start the reversed-grid finale from pole, after Neal drew the number 6 in the post-race lottery.
Oliphant was seventh from Thompson and the Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai of Senna Proctor, while Stephen Jelley emerged from the midfield scrum to claim 10th in his Team Parker Racing BMW 125i M Sport.
Rory Butcher was another leading contender in the wars. He was sent wide by contact with the out-of-control Turkington at the start, went into the pits, and returned to set fastest lap on his way to 19th place.
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