SEP 02nd 2015

Shedden and Neal: Who's the gentleman, who's the racer?

Toss a coin? Or maybe rock, paper, scissors? How do two BTCC champions decide who is going to be the ‘gentleman owner’ and who the ‘professional driver’ when they share a car in the St Mary’s Trophy?

Andrew Jordan Mike Jordan

For ‘Flash’ Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal splitting the driving duties on the Saturday and Sunday at Revival is made a little easier by the fact that Matt does actually own the Lotus Cortina that he and his Honda Yuasa Racing teammate – currently lying second and third in the BTCC driver’s title race – are sharing in the two-part event.

That means Flash will take to the circuit for Race No. 5 on Saturday – up against drivers he knows pretty well already from his ‘day job’. The list includes Jason Plato, Andrew Jordan and Andy Priaulx to name but a few in the all-star cast.

‘I think the St Mary’s Trophy will be the most competitive race of the whole weekend,’ Flash tells us when we drop in on the pair during testing at the circuit on Thursday. ‘The entry list reads like a who’s who of touring cars, sports cars and Le Mans racing. It’s going to be an absolute highlight of the weekend.’

Matt Neal Gordon Shedden Lotus Cortina

Matt Neal, as owner, will be having his go in the car on the Sunday, but, as he confides to GRR, he’s worried.

‘By the Sunday there might be nothing left of it. Flash might break it.’ He does concede one point though: ‘Flash is faster in it than me.’

In fact they are both pretty darned quick in the Lotus Cortina, as you would expect and as shown by their victory in it together at the Silverstone Classic this year, our video of which you can see here. That was in the dry though, in the wet it may be different, as Matt tells us…

Matt Neal Gordon Shedden Revival test 02091510

‘We seem to have it pegged in the dry with good pace, but if it’s wet for Revival it would be a different story. At the moment we are poking around with tyre pressures and spring rates trying to find good pace in the wet. Compared to teams that race Lotus Cortinas every week we are in the dark.’

Matt’s Team Dynamics have owned the Lotus Cortina for two years but this is the first time it has been at Goodwood, and only its second outing this year. After Revival, it’s back under the dust sheets. ‘We’ve got such full calendars we haven’t done as much with it as I hoped,’ says Matt.

How did it feel on the circuit this morning? Flash again: ‘Every lap’s an adventure in this car but you do drive every one with a big smile on your face. It’s such a polar opposite to the Honda Type R touring car. You have to get your head around all this sliding. It certainly keeps you busy – and it is great fun.’

Matt Neal Gordon Shedden Lotus Cortina

What about the opposition? ‘If it’s wet the Minis will win. The Galaxies have the power on the straight but I think the BMW 1800 Ti SAs will be quick too. But Matt and I make a good pairing that’s for sure, and over the two days we should have a good aggregate.’

We asked the duo to talk us round a lap of Goodwood in the car…

‘You get to the right hander at turn one,’ says Flash, ‘and immediately turn the steering wheel left… for the most showboating slide all the way through Madgwick…’

Owner Matt is more circumspect: ‘Going into Madgwick there’s a dip where you want to change down so you can’t, and you have to carry on a bit deeper into the corner. Then you slot it into third and get hard back on it, sliding all the way through but trying to minimise the slide through the second part of the corner. It’s flat chat through Fordwater and No Name, no lift here, and you take third early with a lot of handfuls for the left-hander at St Mary’s. You hold third down to Lavant, sliding through it but trying to carry as much speed as you can at the exit, then it’s fourth and maximum revs, 8000rpm and as fast as the car will go, down the straight. You brake as late as you dare for Woodcote and soon you have to grab second for the chicane.’

Matt Neal Gordon Shedden Lotus Cortina Revival Test

Sounds to us like Mr Neal is enjoying his historic motor racing…

‘Coming to Goodwood and dipping a toe into historic racing has brought back to me why I fell in love with the sport to start with. People in the paddock are smiling and helping each other, and the racing is fair but hard and very competitive. And the category is growing. All the reasons why someone would want to be involved in motorsport. I think I might be keeping my Lotus Cortina.’

As well as partnering in the St Mary’s Trophy, Matt and Flash will be up against each other in the RAC TT Celebration race this year. Flash will be sharing the JD Classics Lightweight E-type with Chris Ward – see more on that here. ‘I haven’t seen the car yet let alone driven it and I don’t think I will be before the race,’ says Flash. ‘But the race is an hour long and I will get my head around it quickly enough.’

Matt Neal Gordon Shedden Revival test 02091506

Matt is taking on the TT in a Sunbeam Lister Tiger. His scheduled test was rained off, something he was not entirely unhappy about.

‘It was very wet here yesterday and I am glad I didn’t get to drive it. My first experience of the Tiger was in the damp here a few years ago and the thing wanted to go anywhere but in a straight line.

‘I remember thinking, what on earth am I driving this for? And I looked across and there was a Spitfire coming into land, and I knew at once why I was doing it.’

Photography by Tom Shaxson

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