SUNSHINE.CO.UK SECURES MAIDEN INDY VICTORY AT ROCKINGHAM For the second successive race meeting, Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport was able to celebrate a podium finish in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after a ...
SUNSHINE.CO.UK SECURES MAIDEN INDY VICTORY AT ROCKINGHAM
For the second successive race meeting, Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport was able to celebrate a podium finish in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after a stunning weekend of racing at Rockingham.
Widnes-racer Paul O'Neill produced a fine drive in the final race of the weekend to finish second behind the works Honda of Matt Neal, a result which handed Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed its first Independents' victory. Paul now leads the Independents' Trophy standings after the first six races of the year and remains fourth overall -- just four points behind second placed Neal.
Paul qualified in tenth place at the wheel of his Honda Integra but gambled on dry tyres for the opening race despite morning rain. It proved to be the right call as Paul battled his way up to finish in sixth place but he was forced to settle for eighth in race two after losing time early on following contact from the BMW of Mat Jackson.
The reverse grid draw left Paul on the front row of the grid for the final race and having tried to make a move around the outside of Neal for the lead at the start, he had to concede a place to Tom Onslow-Cole. Paul then found himself embroiled in a fight for position with the Ford driver and made his move on lap twelve as he went up the inside at Chapman.
Although he was unable to close the gap to Neal out front, Paul took a fine second place and his first Independent victory for the team.
"That was just perfect," he said. "When we got the reverse grid after the first two races, I knew we had a real chance and I had to drive with my head. There are too many people getting involved in contact and taking each other off at the moment -- they are handing an early advantage to Jason Plato.
"When I tried to go around the outside of Matt at the start, I could see all the marbles on the circuit and backed out rather than risk ending up in the wall. Then I had a battle with Tom and he is a great driver to race against because you know you can go side-by-side in fifth gear and it will be a clean fight. On the oval, he had the pace, but on the infield he was there for the taking and he had no reply when I made my move. The result is good but it's not for me, it's for the team. People don't realise how good they are, but to be in a position where I am leading the Independents' championship against the opposition there is, shows everyone what they can do."
Team-mate John George had only arrived back in the country on Thursday having been stuck in Spain following the volcanic eruption in Iceland which grounded flights throughout Europe. A wrong call on tyres for the opening race led to John being forced to make a pitstop, which dropped him down to 16th place, while the second race ended in retirement after he was hit in the rear by the Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall.
Despite that, the Guernsey-racer headed into the final race with confidence high before he was forced to take avoiding action to avoid an incident on track on the opening lap. The subsequent spin and stall dropped him to the rear of the field and he took the flag in 15th place.
"It's a shame I wasn't able to score any points but it's still been a good weekend," he reflected. "Free practice and qualifying went well but I made the wrong tyre choice in the first race and missed out on some possible points. It was disappointing that the contact with MacDowall forced me out of race two, but then again, it's good to be a position to be fighting with a works Chevrolet! I thought we could have had a good result in race three, but there were cars off in front of me and I suffered a spin trying to avoid them and the engine stalled. I might not have scored any points but the positive thing is how quick the car is. Paul's podium has shown that again and I've got to be confident that more points will arrive soon."
Paul's second place finish marked the best result to date for the team, following his third place at Snetterton last season and in the season opener at Thruxton, with the podium finish ensuring the Tech-Speed run outfit remains second in the Independents' Team Championship and fifth in the HiQ Teams' Championship.
"We've had another good weekend," Tech-Speed chief Marvin Humphries said. "We were there or thereabouts throughout and it was unfortunate for Paul that he lost out in the second race. However, we benefited from the reverse grid for race three and he drove well again. He had a good, clean battle with Onslow-Cole and we just have to make one more step now to be on top of the podium. John endured some bad luck but he is still pleased with the weekend and we go to Brands Hatch with our heads held high."
The podium finish was also the perfect end to a tough week for title sponsor sunshine.co.uk, which had seen the volcanic ash cloud severely hit its customers in the lead up to the event.
"From a business point of view, it has been a horrendous week with the Icelandic volcano, and this is the first time that I almost didn't come to the races after the week we have had," sunshine.co.uk MD Chris Brown said. "I'm glad I did now! That was another fantastic weekend and Paul's performance in the third race was outstanding.
"To get a first Independent victory is absolutely mega and we've again shown that we can fight right at the front of the field. To be fair, Matt Neal didn't need that victory as he has enough wins already, but our time will come! John might not have scored any points but he drove well again. He is a better driver than some people give him credit for and we just need to coax the results from him."
-source: team sunshine.co.uk