SUN SETS ON SUCCESSFUL BTCC SEASON FOR SUNSHINE.CO.UK
Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport brought the curtain down on a stunning Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season with three top six finishes on Finals Day at Brands Hatch.
Paul O'Neill once again took the fight to the bigger budget teams at the front of the field, while team-mate John George again showed encouraging speed in the sister car in the final rounds of the year.
Widnes-racer Paul qualified ninth on the grid at the wheel of his Honda Integra but a battling drive in the opening race of the weekend saw him take the chequered flag in sixth place. From the same position at the start of race two, Paul jumped up to fourth on the opening lap and held his position through to the finish; taking the chequered flag just under a second away from the podium places.
The reverse grid draw saw Paul start fourth for the final race of the year and he held his place through the opening lap before the Safety Car was deployed after Lea Wood pulled off with mechanical issues. Paul was overtaken by the BMW of Rob Collard while yellow flags were being displayed and then slipped to sixth when Mat Jackson was able to find a gap on the inside exiting the final corner on lap twelve.
However, in the closing stages of the race, Paul found himself going three-wide with Collard and Jackson into Paddock Hill Bend, with the end result being that he got back ahead of Collard to take the flag in fifth.
The results mean Paul finishes the season ninth in the overall standings and fifth in the Independents' championship.
"We've really pushed against the big boys this season and we've had a really good finish to the year," he said. "The results this weekend have been like three wins compared to Donington Park and the whole team can be proud of the way we've performed.
"Looking back at the season, Donington is probably the one race weekend where we can say we didn't have at least one good result, and that isn't something you can say often at the end of a season. We can go home this weekend with our heads held high and know that we have done a great job.
"To have given some of the teams on this grid a real run for their money with one of the oldest cars on the grid speaks volumes for how well Tech-Speed have worked. Anyone can get into the top ten with a good car, but it takes a great team to be able to fight for podium finishes."
Although he was unable to score points, Guernsey-based team-mate John George enjoyed an encouraging end to a season he feels is the best he has had to date in the BTCC.
Having been boxed in at the start of race one, John lost positions before battling his way through to 19th place at the finish before he claimed a solid 14th in race two; having battled on track with the works Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall in the early stages.
John matched that result in the final race of the season and he ends the year 19th in the overall standings and 13th amongst the Independents.
"I haven't really had the luck this season but I am happy to have shown good speed throughout the year," he said. "This has been easily the most competitive year I've ever had in the BTCC, even if that might not be reflected in my points tally at the end of it. I've had a lot more confidence in the car and the fact I've been able to have a team-mate like Paul to pull me along has been a huge help."
As well as strong performance in the drivers' standings, the Tech-Speed run team also enjoyed a successful campaign in the teams' title race; finishing sixth in the HiQ Teams' Championship and fourth in the Independents' Team Trophy -- just a point behind outgoing champions West Surrey Racing -- despite having one of the oldest cars on the grid.
"The season has gone better than we expected it to," Tech-Speed boss Marvin Humphries said. "We found some pace in the car early on in the year and the team has worked well all season to keep fighting near the front. There have been some great results during the year and Paul has done as well as the old girl would let him to get onto the podium a few times along the way. John has also improved and Knockhill in particular was a great weekend for him as it showed how competitive he has been.
"The boys in the team have done a fantastic job all season to give Paul and John a car that they could use to fight against the bigger budget teams and can be proud of the results this year."
Sunshine.co.uk MD Chris Brown was also delighted with a season that saw the team smash its points tally from 2009, with work now beginning to finalise the programme for 2011 given that Brands Hatch marked the final race meeting for the ultra-successful Honda Integra.
"When I look back at 2010 compared to 2009 and see the improvements we made, it's almost a shame that we now have to say goodbye to the Integra," he said. "The team has worked hard to find more speed in the cars and now someone else can benefit from everything the Tech-Speed boys have done.
"We knew at the start of the season that Paul would do well but to see him fighting at the front nearly every weekend was fantastic. John has surprised me this year and has improved so much during the season; there is a lot more to come from him and he just needs luck on his side.
"I never expected that we would end the season being pipped at the post to third in the Independents' championship. Everyone involved with the team can be rightly proud of the results during the year and maybe next year, we can come back and win it. We have some interesting options to explore which would allow us to move to the next level for 2011, so watch this space!"