Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden gave Honda a dream start to the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, with two out of three race wins for the factory team at Brands Hatch. Watch highlights of the whole weekend here:
However, it was WSR BMW's Rob Collard who drew first blood, taking victory in the opening race of the championship. Starting fifth on the grid, Collard got off to a flying start and was up to second position by the end of the opening lap. He went on to pass his teammate, Andy Priaulx, on lap 13 after the WTCC champion's soft compound tyres faded.
The two Team BMR Volkswagen Passat CCs of Aron Smith and Jason Plato took full advantage of Priaulx's misfortune at Paddock on the same lap, with the teammates putting pressure on Collard all the way to the chequered flag.
New MG recruit Jack Goff impressed on his debut for the team, bringing the car home in fourth place for the factory team, after fending off a determined effort from 2014 champion and BMR's third driver, Colin Turkington.
Gordon Shedden, in Honda's all-new Civic Type-R, finished a close sixth with Turkington's teammate Andrew Jordan and Matt Neal rounding out the top eight. Priaulx eventually crossed the line in ninth, while the Toyota Avensis of Speedworks Motorsport's Tom Ingram completed the top 10, after a tustle with the Mercedes A Class of Adam Morgan at Graham Hill Bend earlier in the race.
Two-time champion Jason Plato began race two on pole position and quickly asserted his dominance by opening up a four-second gap over Gordon Shedden and Andy Priaulx. However, with only three laps remaining Plato ran wide at Paddock Hill Bend after suffering a front-left puncture, which let Shedden and Priaulx through to battle it out for top honours.
Priaulx got the run on Shedden exiting Clearways, but the Scotsman regained the lead going into Paddock Hill and into Druids. The pair were neck and neck right to the chequered flag, with a photo-finish and a gap of just 0.040sec separating them.
Turkington rounded off the podium for Team BMR, while Adam Morgan snatched fourth place ahead of Andrew Jordan, the Speedworks Toyota of Tom Ingram in sixth and the WSR BMW 125i of Sam Tordoff. Matt Neal brought the new Honda Civic Type-R home in eighth, while MG's Jack Goff and the Audi A4 of Rob Austin completed the top ten.
The final race had Rob Austin start on pole position, after he was selected in the reverse grid draw. He got his A4 saloon off to a fine start and held his own out in front as Matt Neal pipped Goff off the start line for second place.
The safety car then made an appearance to deal with the stranded BMW of Rob Collard which had left the track.
Following the restart, it unfolded into a three-way battle between Austin, Neal and Goff, as the Audi eventually succumbed to the pace of the Honda and MG with just five laps to go.
Austin then was pushed off the track by an understeering MG of Andrew Jordan while Team BMR's Aron Smith swept through to third place. Neal and Goff continued to go bumper-to-bumper in the final few laps; the MG seemingly having the advantage in the bends while the Honda Civic Type-R opened up gaps on the straights.
A nail-biting final lap saw Matt Neal hold his nerve under immense pressure to take Honda's second win of the weekend and give the Englishman the championship lead after the first three races. WSR BMW's Sam Tordoff took fourth place, ahead of Rob Austin, Tom Ingram, Adam Morgan and the BMW 125i of Andy Priaulx.
Jason Plato put in a stellar effort, rising from 24th on the grid to as high as 12th, before eventually finishing 16th. Meanwhile, Matt Neal's teammate Gordon Shedden pitted early on with an engine misfire, but returned to the circuit at the back of the grid and achieved fastest lap of the race.