The 53-year-old confirmed last month that he will be taking a sabbatical from driving in the BTCC this year. For the first time since 2001, the seasoned tin top driver will not be a full-time participant in the series.
While Neal’s family-run Team Dynamics team at the BTCC will field Honda Civic Type Rs for Gordon Shedden and Dan Rowbottom, Neal skipped the team’s pre-season Knockhill test to get his first taste of rallycross machines.
With the British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy, in which electric cars developed by the Austrian company STARD were included in the super sports car category this season, Neal tested together with British Olympic hero Chris Hoy and the rallycross driver World Championship Liam Doran among other things a 450 kW Ford with four wheel drive Fiesta ERX at the venue in Kent.
“It was pretty noticeable,” Neal told Autosport.
“I’ve driven cars with high performance, but in this thing [the Fiesta]It’s just like it never stops accelerating. As long as you keep pressing your right foot down, it will accelerate more than you can believe.
“I was impressed with how drivable it was and how nimble the car felt – no less than a gasoline car. I doubt I was anywhere near the right people’s limits, but it’s really fun, a real handful and.” it felt like driver input would matter so much. “
Photo by: Dan Bathie
When asked about his chances of driving a machine built by STARD in the British series this year, Neal said: “You never know it would be good.
“It certainly piqued my appetite and opened my eyes. I had never driven an electric car on the road before, nothing, and okay, we all understand the noise and the bangs, the bangs and the smell, but the power of that thing was pretty impressive. “
With over 700 BTCC starts, the rallycross draw is similar to that of touring car races, according to Neal.
“I’ve always been drawn to the BTCC because it’s not that puristic, a little bit of the elbows out and a little bit of me against you,” he said.
“I think rallycross takes that to another level. I haven’t been to anyone yet, but I can only imagine talking to Tom Onslow-Cole [who was driving an RX150 buggy at the Lydden test] and he said that with six cars on the grid it will be pretty interesting. “
Hoy wants an electrical challenge
After his supercar debut in the Spanish round of the World RX in 2019 with a Ford Fiesta and a Citroen C4 at the 5-nation BRX opener last year, the Olympic legend Hoy is determined to drive an electric supercar after the Lydden taster.
“The car was absolutely amazing, I really didn’t think it would be as impressive as it was,” said Hoy.
“For someone who has limited experience but has now driven two supercars and a few buggies in rallycross, I have some kind of reference point and it was amazing.
“How confident it was, you could really use the torque to adjust the angle of the car in the middle of the corner and then just put it on the throttle.”
“If we can do it I would love to try it out and it will be fascinating to see how they work [the electric cars] fit into the supercar category and how competitive they will be. “