- December 20, 1966
- United Kingdom
- British Touring Car Championship
- Halfords Yuasa Racing
Three-time BTCC champion Matt Neal is currently one of the most experienced drivers in the British Touring Car Championship. Matt debuted in BTCC in 1991. Since then, he recorded more than 630 starts in touring car races, winning BTCC titles in 2005, 2006 and 2011, all three times driving Honda cars. Prior to that, he won four BTCC independent drivers' titles (in 1993, 1995, 1999 and 2000) and two British Group N titles (in 1990 and 1991).
Motocross driver switched to cars in 1988
Matthew Neal was born on December 20, 1966, in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands of England. He started his racing career in a motocross, switching to cars in 1988. His first race car was Ford Fiesta XR2i. The next car was BMW M3, which was Matt's winning car in the British Group N Championship in 1990 and 1991. He also won the 1990 Willhire 24-hour at Snetterton Circuit, together with Dave Wallis and Stuart McCrudden.
BTCC debut with BMW M3
In 1991, BMW M3 was Neal's car in his BTCC debut at Silverstone in July. He drove for the Pyramid Motorsports and finished 13th in his debuting race. In August, he was driving Techspeed's BMW M3 at Oulton Park, but retired.
In 1992, Matt joined Team Dynamics, the team formed by his father Steve Neal and former driver Ray Bellm. He continued to drive BMW M3, entering the full BTCC season. His best result was seventh place at Knockhill. For the last round of the championship, Matt switched to BMW 318is.
First independent title for Matt in 1993
Matt was driving the #77 BMW 318is in 1993, reaching his best result in the season-opening race at Silverstone when he was eighth. The Team Dynamics was a private team and Matt was eligible for the Independent's TOCA Challenge. He scored four wins and won the independents' title with two points advantage over Ian Khan. During 1993, Matt also participated in two DTM races, at the non-championship round at Donington in July.
Disappointing season results with Mazda
In 1994, Matt decided to try something else, so he moved to the Team Mazda to drive Mazda Xedos 6. His best result was tenth place at Snetterton before he crashed hard at Silverstone. The car was destroyed and Matt's season was over. He participated in only one race, at FIA World Touring Car World Cup at Donington Park in October, driving Mazda 323F for Team Dynamics, finishing 22nd.
Neal took one more independent title in 1996
In 1995, Matt again had a full BTCC season with Team Dynamics and he won his second Independents' title. The winning car was the #77 Ford Mondeo Ghia. Matt scored 14 wins and dominantly took the title. In the overall standings he finished 21st, with fourth place at Snetterton as the best result. Matt repeated the participation in the FIA World Touring Cup, which was held at Circuit Paul Ricard, finishing 21st after two races.
Switch from Ford Mondeo to Nissan Primera
Ford Mondeo remained Matt's car in the 1996 BTCC season. The results weren't so good and he finished 22nd overall, earning only one point. In the privateers classification, he was third. In the first part of the 1997 season, Matt was driving Ford Mondeo and later on he switched to Nissan Primera, but the results weren't improving. He didn't score any points in the overall standings, finishing sixth among privateers.
Debut participation at Bathurst 1000
In October 1997, Matt traveled to Australia to compete for the first time at Bathurst 1000. It was the first Bathurst 1000 race held after the controversial split between race organizers which led to two separate races. Matt was participating in the touring car race, sharing Garry Rogers Motorsports' Nissan Primera with Steven Richards. They retired after 84 laps.
Second place at 1998 Bathurst 1000
In the 1998 BTCC season, Matt's performance in the Team Dynamics' Nissan Primera improved and he recorded nine Top 10 finishes, collecting 35 points and finishing 13th in the overall classification. In the privateers' championship, he finished third.
In October 1998, Team Dynamics entered the #34 Nissan Primera to the Bathurst 1000 race. Matt Neal and Steven Richards finished second overall. Matt also had a one-off appearance in the British GT Championship, driving Porsche 911 GT1 alongside David Leslie at Silverstone. They finished third.
Maiden BTCC complete victory at Donington Park
Matt continued to improve in 1999, scoring the first overall victory in the BTCC race, becoming the first independent driver to win in the overall classification. He won the second round at Donington Park in the #77 Nissan Primera GT. He later reached two more podiums at Thruxton and Brands Hatch, to finish ninth in the overall classification. Among independent drivers, he dominantly took his third title.
Fourth independent championship title in 2000
The similar results repeated in 2000, still with the Team Dynamics' Nissan Primera. Matt scored one overall victory (Brands Hatch) and finished 8th in the overall classification, while in the Independents' championship he had no proper rivals and he took his fourth title.
In November 2000, Matt again traveled to Australia, but this time he participated in the V8 Supercars edition of the Bathurst 1000 race. His partner in the #29 Holden VT Commodore was Paul Morris and they finished 12th.
2001 ETCC season with Nissan Primera
In 2001, Matt started the season with Peugeot Sport UK in the British Touring Car Championship, driving the Peugeot 406 Coupe in the season-opening round at Brands Hatch. After that, Neal moved to the European Touring Car Championship, participating in the Super Touring category with RJN Motorsport's Nissan Primera. In twelve races he scored one win (Portugal) and four podiums, to finish 14th in the final points.
Matt missed the 2001 Bathurst 1000 race but participated in the Queensland 500 instead. His partner in the #29 Holden VT Commodore was again Paul Morris. After starting sixth on the grid, they finished tenth.
Third place in the 2002 British championship with Astra
In 2002, Matt returned for the full season in the British Touring Car Championship, joining egg:sport to drive #0 Vauxhall Astra Coupe. Driving the official works car for the first time, Neal was one of the leading drivers and he finished third in the overall standings, behind two Vauxhall Motorsport's drivers James Thompson and Yvan Muller. Neal was the winner in the opening race at Brands Hatch and two more times at Mondello Park and Knockhill.
Six wins and one more third place in 2003
For the 2003 season, Neal joined Honda Racing to drive #3 Honda Civic Type R. He again finished third in the championship order, behind Yvan Muller and James Thompson. Neal won six races (Brands Hatch, Rockingham, Croft, Snetterton, Donington Park and Oulton Park).
In 2004, Neal stayed in the cockpit of the #3 Honda Civic Type R, but this time operated by the Team Dynamics, so he was again among independent drivers. Neal scored three overall wins to finish sixth in the overall classification and fourth in the independents' classification.
First British Touring Car Championship title in 2005
In 2005, the team remained the same but named Team Halfords. The car was new, the #5 Honda Integra Type R. Matt dominantly took his first BTCC title, collecting 43 points more than Yvan Muller. Both drivers had six wins, but Matt also had 14 podiums, compared to ten Muller's podiums. Neal also finished every single race in the points, he was the first driver to do so since the calendar expanded to 30 races per season.
Back-to-back title in 2006
In 2006, the #1 Honda Integra was a dominant car in the field and Matt captured back-to-back BTCC title with eight wins in 30 races. He won two races at Mondello Park and one race on other six circuits (Oulton Park, Thruxton, Croft, Snetterton, Knockhill and Silverstone).
Controversial ending of the 2007 season and move to VX Racing
In 2007, the BTC-spec cars such as the Integra were no longer eligible for the main title, so Team Dynamics (Halfords) switched to a Honda Civic. Neal won the third race of the opening round at Brands Hatch and it remained his only victory. Vauxhall's Fabrizio Giovanardi and Seat's Jason Plato fought for the title, while Matt Neal finished fourth, one place behind teammate Gordon Shedden.
Before the end of the season, Matt signed for Vauxhall. In the controversial last race of the 2007 season, Neal let his future teammate Giovanardi win without a fight, ensuring Giovanardi will win the title ahead of Plato. In 2008, the first season with VX Racing, Neal was driving the #4 Vauxhall Vectra. Giovanardi again took the title, Neal finished fifth, winning only one race (Rockingham).
Neal and Boris Said together in Australia
After a few years of absence, Neal traveled again to Australia to drive in the V8 Supercars endurance races at Phillip Island and Bathurst. He shared the #67 Paul Morris Motorsport's Holden with American races Boris Said, to finish 19th at Phillip Island and retire at Bathurst.
In 2009 BTCC season, Neal won the opening race at Brands Hatch. He drove the #5 Vauxhall Vectra to eight more podiums, finishing fourth in the final classification.
The winning partnership Neal-Shedden was formed in 2010
One more change of the team, in fact one more return, followed in 2010. Neal again joined Team Dynamics which operated under the banner of Honda Racing, to drive alongside the old teammate Gordon Shedden. They formed a partnership which resulted in many victories and titles in the following years.
In 2010, Honda Racing took Manufacturers and Teams Championships. In the drivers' championship, Neal lost the title to Chevrolet's Jason Plato. Neal won five races but Plato was more successful late in the season and he took the title.
Third championship title for Matt Neal in 2011
In 2011, Honda Civic got a 2.0 NGTC Honda engine built by Neil Brown Engines, which proved better than the rest of the engines in the field. Honda teammates Neal and Shedden fought for the title. Neal's #2 car won seven races, Shedden's #52 won six races, so at the end, Neal took the title with eight points advantage over Shedden. The team again took both Manufacturers and Constructors titles.
In 2012, Shedden was on the top
In 2012, the new NGTC Honda Civic was again the dominant car, Honda Yuasa drivers Shedden and Neal were again the main title contenders. Neal was first who won the race in the opening round at Brands Hatch. Neal had later won four more races while Shedden collected eight wins, to take the title with 21 points advantage over Neal.
Two seasons without drivers' titles
The team competed under the name Honda Yuasa Racing for the next three seasons with Neal and Shedden as teammates. In 2013, Neal scored four wins and finished fourth, two places behind Shedden. The champion was Pirtek Racing's Andrew Jordan. In 2014, Neal won only one race (Knockhill) and finished eighth in the points. It's interesting that the team's car in 2014 was the Tourer version of the Honda Civic.
Gordon again champion, Matt was third
In 2015, Neal progressed to the 3rd place in the final season standings, scoring three wins (Brands Hatch, Donington and Knockhill) with #25 Honda Civic Type R. Neal's teammate Shedden took his second BTCC title while the team took the Manufacturers' title. In March 2015, Neal had a one-off appearance in the 24H Series, participating in the 12 hours of Mugello in the Miltek Racing's VW Golf diesel. He finished second in the class.
Still competitive against many younger drivers
In 2016 Dunlop British Touring Car Championship season, the team was renamed to the Halfords Yuasa Racing, with Matt Neal in the #25 Honda Civic Type R. At the age of 50, Neal was still competitive in the BTCC field, scoring three wins (Donington Park, Oulton Park and Knockhill) and being in a contention for the title until the last round. Unfortunately, he had a heavy crash in the second race of the season's finale at Brands Hatch GP Circuit, so he missed the last race and finished the championship in 6th position.
In 2017, Neal added two more BTCC wins on his tally, surpassing a number of sixty wins. Now, he had 61 wins in his CV. He was a race winner at Thruxton and Silverstone, finishing a season 7th in the points.