SUNSHINE.CO.UK MAINTAINS TITLE CHALLENGE AT BRANDS HATCH Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport maintained its Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Independents' title challenge despite a difficult third round of the season at ...
SUNSHINE.CO.UK MAINTAINS TITLE CHALLENGE AT BRANDS HATCH
Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport maintained its Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Independents' title challenge despite a difficult third round of the season at Brands Hatch.
Widnes-racer Paul O'Neill headed into the weekend at the head of the Independent Trophy standings and fourth overall following podium finishes in the first two rounds of the year at Thruxton and Rockingham.
Having qualified in tenth place around the famous Grand Prix circuit, Paul lost a place at the start of the opening race - held in horrendous wet weather conditions -- but soon fought his way back into the points before closing onto the rear of the works Chevrolets of Jason Plato and Alex MacDowall. A stunning move down the inside at Clark Curve saw Paul move ahead of Plato and on the penultimate lap, he battled past MacDowall at Druids to secure sixth place.
From sixth on the grid for race two, Paul battled up to fourth on the opening lap and then took third following a restart on lap five when leader Gordon Shedden got out of shape exiting Clark Curve. As was the case a week earlier at Rockingham, Paul then found himself fighting for position with the Ford of Tom Onslow-Cole before rivals behind forced him wide and he slipped down to seventh place.
Through the closing laps, Paul climbed back up to fifth place, which became fourth at the finish when race winner Tom Chilton was excluded. However, with the Honda Integra having been quicker than the cars ahead, it was very much a case of what might have been.
The fourth place in race two meant Paul headed into the final race of the weekend in second place overall in the championship and with a real opportunity to move into the title lead. Unfortunately he was forced to pull off with an engine issue on the green flag lap -- marking the first time this season he has failed to score.
Despite that, Paul continues to lead the Independents' standings -- level on points with Steven Kane -- and is just eleven points off the overall championship lead in fourth place heading to his home race at Oulton Park next month.
"If we'd got those results twelve months ago, we would have been happy," he said. "This time around, I feel a bit aggrieved that we haven't come away with more from the weekend but you have to put things in perspective. I went into that final race second in the overall standings, and could have come away from it leading the championship if the result had gone my way.
"The first race was really good and if I'm being honest, I think we should have won race two. The car was really good but I got pushed wide and lost out. We've now got to focus on Oulton Park and push on. It's my favourite circuit, and my home circuit, so I'm looking forward to it."
For team-mate John George, Brands Hatch turned out to be a weekend to forget, despite a promising start for the Guernsey-based racer. Free practice saw John lapping strongly, although a trip through the gravel in qualifying meant he had to settle for 18th place on the grid.
However, his Honda Integra developed a misfire in the closing stages of the session which continued throughout race day and despite the best efforts of the Tech-Speed team, the issue refused to go away and he was forced to sit out all three races.
"It wasn't a great weekend for me," he said. "It started positively in free practice when I managed to get closer to Paul on the times, especially through the first sector of the lap. Unfortunately in qualifying, I ran wide through the gravel and then the car developed a misfire which ultimately ended my weekend.
"The team changed everything, including the engine, to try and clear the problem but unfortunately it was still there. It's something we'll have to look into, but it was frustrating that I didn't get to race after all the hard work the guys put in. At least I got to watch some racing and Paul drove really well. It was just a shame his weekend ended the way it did."
The team heads away from Brands Hatch having maintained its second place in the Independents' Team Trophy, and although disappointed with the way the weekend had panned out, Tech-Speed chief Marvin Humphries vowed to come back fighting next time out as it seeks to close the 15 point gap to Airwaves BMW.
"That's motor racing for you," he said. "Paul drove well again and it is unfortunate that we had the engine issue in the final race. We need to investigate what caused John's problem when we get back to the workshop but it was just one of those weekends. We'll come back strong at Oulton Park."
A family holiday to Florida meant sunshine.co.uk MD Chris Brown was unable to attend the Brands Hatch weekend, but that didn't stop him from using whatever means possible to keep up to date with all the race day action.
Although disappointed with the way the weekend ended, Brown insisted that the pace shown by O'Neill was a sign the team should be viewed as serious challengers.
"Thanks to Twitter, live timing and texts from team members and friends at the circuit, I was able to keep up to date with what was going on at the circuit and it was pretty nerve-racking!," he said. "I was gutted for John as he always gives it everything and never stops smiling, but -- like he says -- sometimes things don't go your way. Hopefully we'll resolve his problem for Oulton Park.
"As for Paul, I really do think that some people were put on this earth to do certain things, and he was put here to race. His performances in race one and two had me and the family yelling at Twitter updates while we were on a bus in Disney World -- which led to some funny looks from people! I can only imagine how the overall championship would look if he had been able to take part in race three...
"After all the rain, hopefully the sunshine.co.uk will be shining when we get to Oulton Park and maybe it's time we started to ask ourselves if we are really the underdogs. I don't think we are."