Milltek Sport and Matt Neal Power to the Podium at Mugello
Racing with its usual KPM Racing-prepped machine, and with triple-BTCC champion Matt Neal at the wheel, joined by fellow aces Tom Wilson and Lucas Orrock, the team were to prove faultless over the 12 hours of racing, never putting a foot wrong on the iconic Italian circuit and recording times in their diesel-powered Golf that would eclipse many of their petrol-fuelled class peers running at the event.
This year’s 12 hours at Mugello saw a considerably larger grid than previous years, with some 72 cars lining up, more than doubling the 2014 grid. Up against numerous GT machines, Porsche 997s and plenty of race exotica, the Milltek Golf looked like an outside contender for overall grid position, and with the rules now changed to pitch quick petrol cars against diesel machines in the same class structure, many wondered just how well a derv racecar could fare in class, too.
The answer from the three drivers to this conundrum was a swift one, with the Milltek car proving to be on class pace from the second the lights went out, while also moving steadily through the overall field, taking places as each hour passed, as well as out-staying the less fortunate cars who retired either through accident or failure.
With KPM crew chief Kevin Poole also running a tight ship in the pit-lane, the team remained competitive throughout, with every fuel stop, driver change and tyre swap happening with military precision, allowing every hard fought place to be maintained and steady progress to be kept – all the way to the chequered flag and podium, with only four laps separating the Milltek team from the petrol-powered Peugeot RCZ of Team K-Rejser. Keen to push right until the end, it was interesting to note that Neal was able to post the team’s fastest lap some 10 hours into the action.
Commenting on the podium finish, Milltek Sport MD Steve Pound was quick to praise the team for its collective efforts. “I really could not have been happier with how this season opener went for us,” he beamed. “This has been a textbook performance from everybody - from KPM building and running such a superb car, through to the stellar performances from Matt, Tom and Lucas. Running against so many petrol cars, we didn’t have the luxury of running at anything less than 100% for the whole 12 hours, and the fact that we could, and without incident, says a lot about the assembled talent behind the team.”
Matt Neal was also clearly happy to be back in an endurance seat – his first for almost seven years! “I’ve had a huge amount of fun, and the team have been wonderful to work with and incredibly welcoming all weekend,” he said. “The car was superb throughout, but even with my best laps and a flyer onto the straights, the petrol cars could pull 10-12 car lengths out from you in an instant, but we had the reliability, the cornering pace and the fuel range to make a decent fight out of it. Tom and Lucas also did a superb job behind the wheel. It was really was a fantastic team effort all round.”
The next race is the 12H at Circuit Park Zandvoort in Holland on the 18-30 May 2015M.