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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Neal leaves Peugeot team
Matt Neal andf the Peugeot 406s at Brands Hatch
Neal and the 406s trail the Vauxhalls at Brands Hatch
Peugeot have released Matt Neal from his British Touring Car Championship contract after the last-minute collapse of a crucial sponsorship deal.

The team said that the breakdown "with a non-motorsport related major sponsor that was to fund the third car" means that the number of 406 Coupes on the grid will be cut to two.

Mick Linford, Peugeot motorsport manager said: "I am extremely disappointed for the team and of course for Matt's sake. It was a joint approach that failed unexpectedly at the last moment."

There remains the possibility that Peugeot will race a third car, but any possible replacements would have to bring their own funding.

I am very disappointed but I do understand the reality of the situation and wish the team well
  Matt Neal

Linford added: "I would hope the third car will rejoin the BTCC in the not too distant future, but until additional funding is sourced, we will remain a two-car team."

Neal, who finished fifth in the opening round of the BTCC at Brands Hatch, was naturally disappointed by the news.

He said: "I needed a commitment for the year, but when the sponsorship talks broke down, Peugeot could only guarantee part of the championship. That was unacceptable.

Matt Neal in action in 2000
Neal was last year's Independents champion

"I am very disappointed but I do understand the reality of the situation and wish the team well."

The news is also a blow to the BTCC, which is struggling to establish itself this year.

Many of the manufacturers that were involved have pulled out, and the jury is still out on the effectiveness and popularity of new rules.

In the short-term, Neal, the four-time BTCC Independents champion, will be kept busy by racing in a one-off European Touring Car Championship event on Tuesday next at Magny-Cours in France.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 |  Motorsport
Thompson and Muller take honours
26 Mar 01 |  Motorsport
Soper to meet Vauxhall challenge
16 Dec 00 |  Motorsport
Soper returns to touring cars
26 Mar 01 |  Motorsport
Slight quits bikes for touring cars
06 Oct 00 |  Motorsport
Peugeot returns to Championship
16 Sep 00 |  Motorsport
Menu takes BTCC title
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