BTCC: Paul O'Neil scores initial win at Oulton Park

Paul O'Neill scored his first Touring Class win in dramatic Feature race. Early leader Matt Neal crashed out, Yvan Muller suffered a mechanical problem and then James Thompson picked up a puncture, leaving O'Neill to cruise to a deserved first ...

Paul O'Neill scored his first Touring Class win in dramatic Feature race. Early leader Matt Neal crashed out, Yvan Muller suffered a mechanical problem and then James Thompson picked up a puncture, leaving O'Neill to cruise to a deserved first win.

Neal (+9kg) started in pole-position for the second race alongside Sprint Race winner Muller (+42kg). Warren Hughes (+30kg) was an impressive third in his MG ZS and the Vauxhall Astra Coupe pair of O'Neill (-24kg) and James Thompson (+18kg) fourth and fifth respectively. Phil Bennett and John B&Q withdrew from the race. The success ballasts reflect the results of the Sprint Race.

Neal, Muller and Hughes all kept their places at the rolling start as Thompson nugded past O'Neill into fourth at the Hairpin. Muller imediately started putting the pressure on Neal in order to get past as early as possible but Neal strongly defended his position and after a couple of laps Muller eased off slightly to wait for the pitstops.

Thompson put a lot of pressure on Hughes as the leaders were starting to pull away. On lap four he made a confident and successful move at the first corner and quickly built up a small lead. Colin Turkington spun off into the gravel at the hairpin but was able to continue slowly. Paul O'Neill, currently in fourth, started to close up on Hughes and on lap six moved past the MG driver.

As soon as the pitstop window opened Muller and Hughes made their compulsory stops. Muller was stuck behind Neal so needed to make an early stop, although there was a slight delay changing the tyres and he lost a couple of seconds. Neal stopped on the next lap but pulled into the Honda pit by mistake. He drove through to his own garage but picked up a drive-through penalty for not stopping at the correct garage garage which he paid on the next lap.

This left James Thompson in the lead and he did a blistering lap before making his own stop, but there was a slight delay and his stop of 9.8 seconds put him back behind Muller. The order now was Paul O'Neill with a fifteen-second lead over Muller who was a couple of seconds ahead of Thompson. Muller appeared to slow briefly but soon picked up speed again. Anthony Reid pulled over to allow his MG team-mate past and then returned slowly to the pits and retired.

Matt Neil was closely following Warren Hughes but made a mistake under braking at the chicane and hit the back of the MG. Neal's car then hit the barriers causing a lot of damage and a furious driver walked away from the car.

Leader O'Neill pitted on lap 14 for an extremely quick pitstop and he was able to return well ahead of Hughes in third. Meanwhile Muller comfortably lead from Thompson and the two Vauxhalls were holding station.

Suddenly both Vauxhalls slowed on lap 21. Thompson suffered a left-front puncture, and simultaneously Muller slowed with a mechanical problem. O'Neill quickly caught up to the limping red and white cars. Thompson pitted for a new tyre but Muller continued slowly and O'Neill passed to take the lead, with Hughes and Harvey moving up to second and third. Muller then picked up speed again and the fault returned only intermittently.

Harvey was right on the bumper of Hughes and putting him under immense pressure, and eventually barged past at Lodge Corner to move up to seconds. Meanwhile O'Neill was left alone up front and took the chequered flag for his maiden win in the series.

Afterwards a tearful O'Neill thanked the fans and the marshalls, and jokingly announced his retirement from Touring Cars.

Results:

1 Paul O'Neill (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 37m 41.117s
2 Tim Harvey (Peugeot 406 Coupe) +3.381
3 Warren Hughes (MG ZS) +4.227
4 David Leslie (Proton Impian) +9.544
5 Gareth Howell (MG ZS) +16.664
6 Alan Morrison (Honda Civic Type-R) +19.701
7 James Thompson (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +30.198
8 Aaron Slight (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +33.990
9 Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +42.203
10 Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +1m 00.415

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