Matt Neal has written his name into the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship history books at Snetterton after winning the Diamond Double.
As a way of marking 60 years of the BTCC, round 18 of the series was a 60-mile, 20-lap race instead of the customary reverse grid format. In addition, and more importantly, double points were on offer for it too.
Following on from storming to pole position in the first qualifying session on Saturday, WIX Racing with Eurotech’s Goff produced another stellar performance to make it two pole’s from two sessions – underlining his superiority at the Norfolk venue. The cherry on top for Goff was that he also smashed his own lap record that he had set just a few hours before.
Joining Goff on the front row of the grid was Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal, whilst Tom Chilton and Tom Ingram filled the second row of the grid in their respective machines.
With mixed weather conditions battering the circuit throughout the day, all eyes were fixed on the skies to see if it would be a wet or dry race. With the rain holding off, all cars started on slicks and Goff launched from pole position into an early lead.
Behind, Tom Ingram hounded the back of Neal during the early running whilst Andrew Jordan vaulted himself into fourth. Towards the rear of the field, Aiden Moffat and Rory Butcher saw their races ended on the spot at the exit of Wilson.
Further back reigning champion Ashley Sutton found himself in strife as he was hit with not one but two 30-second stop-go penalties. The race two winner was issued the penalty on the opening lap but was adjudged to have not served it in the correct way the first time, forcing him to visit the pit lane for again a lap later.
As the laps ticked by Goff’s early lead was beginning to be whittled down as Neal and Ingram gave chase, especially after a brief safety car caused by Brett Smith and Tom Oilphant. Lap nine proved to be a decisive moment in the Diamond Double as light rain hit the circuit and Neal made his move. Running into the Wilson hairpin, Goff was unable to stop his Civic Type R and slithered wide, giving Neal the lead.
The splattering of rain ended soon after however Neal was unable to pull away from Goff. From lap nine onwards, Neal was chased by Goff and Ingram with no more than a second ever separating them.
Try as he might, Goff struggled to find a way past his Type R compatriot and he soon had his mirrors filled with the Toyota Avensis of Ingram. On lap 20, Ingram showed his nose at the Wilson hairpin but had the door shut. From there
Behind the top three, Andrew Jordan and Tom Chilton enjoyed a feisty battle with the BMW driver getting the edge over the Motorbase racer, taking fourth.
The scrap for sixth was where everyone had their attention drawn towards as Chris Smiley defended the position. With a bumper queue building up, Smiley came undone after the multiple laps of scrapping with Colin Turkington, Josh Cook, Senna Proctor and more.
Smiley became undone near the end of the race, joining the long list of retirements with damage. That departure gave Turkington sixth with Cook, Matt Simpson, Daniel Lloyd, and Proctor rounding out the top ten.
In the wake of the Diamond Double, Ingram now leads the BTCC Driver standings by six points over Turkington. Neal’s victory brings him closer in third whilst Goff and Cook round out the top five.
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns in two weeks time with rounds 19, 20 & 21 taking place at Rockingham on August 11/12.
For the full classification of results and championship standings, click here.