MOTOR RACING: Neal to star at Bank Holiday Combe meeting
TRIPLE British Touring Car champion, Matt Neal, is the star attraction at Castle Combe Circuit's Whitsun Bank Holiday Monday Race Meeting on Monday (May 26).
Neal, who drives for the Honda Yuasa Racing team in the British Championship, will drive a Honda Jazz in the Dave Allan Trophy race, an annual 90-minute endurance held in memory of the late Swindon-based Honda test driver.
The Jazz has been prepared by Honda's in-house race team at Swindon, Synchro Motorsport, and Neal briefly sampled it at Gurston Down's hill climb event at the end of April.
Neal will be hoping his trip to Castle Combe will be a little more fruitful than his last outing in August 1991, when he put his Nissan Skyline on pole for the Esso saloon car championship race by two seconds, only to spin into retirement, allowing another future British Touring Cars rival, Dave Pinkney, to win.
Neal will also be performing demonstration laps, signing autographs and holding a question and answer session in the Honda Village.
The race, which is also supported by Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd, allows any saloon or sports car to take part, but a handicapping system means even the most modest vehicles have a chance of a prize. and includes a rolling start and compulsory pit stops.
Also on the Honda theme are the two races for the Tegiwa Civic Cup, run by the 750 Motor Club, a series that allows almost any type of Civic to take part.
The circuit's own championships enter their third rounds and, in the Castle Combe Formula Ford 1600 Championship, Langford's Roger Orgee has a slim points lead over Kevin Mills Racing teammate Ashley Crossey, from Flax Bourton, the pair having a win apiece.
Reigning champion, Chippenham's Adam Higgins, languishes down in eighth place after car problems of his own, but Riadro Racing teammate and brother, Richard, from Burnham on Sea has put his Van Diemen JL12 into third place in this his first season in class A.
Former champion, Ed Moore from Melksham, will be looking for a straightforward outing after a few issues with his Van Diemen JL013K so far this year.
The Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship is equally tight at the top.
Despite being unusually off the pace last time out, class B’s Mark Wyatt holds the joint points lead with fellow Bristolian David Rose, the D class leader in his VW Lupo.
As in previous seasons, the biggest class challenge to Wyatt's Astra is the Peugeot 106 of Bridgwater's Tony Dolley.
Also just two points behind Wyatt is Heddington’s Tony Hutchings, the former double champion, who is well ahead of his class A opposition in his unique Audi TT.
The Bird family will be out together for the first time this year, having each had a race, but not against each other.
The Renault Megane is in the hands of Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird, from Shepton Mallet, with dad, Kevin Bird, from Ditcheat, wheeling out his BMW.
The class A Astra Turbo rivalry between Swindon's Julian Ellison and Keynsham's John Barnard was curtailed at the last meeting after the latter was turfed off the circuit by an errant back marker, but the WAS Racing team hopes to have it back out for this event.
Another non-finish last time, was the class C man to beat, Adrian Slade, from Devizes who buzzed the engine of his Peugeot 106 Gti to hand the win to Chard's Carl Loader in his Saxo VTS.
Slade's future involvement in the championship is in doubt, so Bath's Guy Parr could be in a good position at the top of the class after two consistent finishes in his ex-championship winning Fiesta.
Droitwich's Keith Dunn just leads the circuit's Sports and GT Championship in his Caterham C400 with Tim Woodman, from Westbury on Trym, his class rival.
There are also races for the Aero Racing Morgan Challenge and the Lackford Engineering Midget & Sprite Challenge, both offering the opportunity to see a variety of British sports cars in competition.
2014 sees the 50th year of Sprites and Midgets competing at Castle Combe.
Monday's action starts at 8.30am with qualifying, racing getting under way from 12.15pm.
The Matt Neal question and answer plus autograph signing will be at the Honda Village from 10.45am with further opportunities during the day.
Admission prices are £15 for adults and £10 for seniors, whiet accompanied children aged under 17 years are admitted free. Paddock Transfer is free if the tickets are booked in advance.
For further information, please visit castlecombecircuit.co.uk or telephone 01249 782417 for details.
Information can also be found on the Circuit's Facebook page at facebook.com/CastleCombeCircuit.
CASTLE COMBE MEETING REPORT, REACTION & PICTURES IN NEXT WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND WILTSHIRE TIMES