SUNSHINE.CO.UK TAKES SECOND INDEPENDENT VICTORY Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport has secured its second Independents victory of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season, although a third podium finish of the year...
SUNSHINE.CO.UK TAKES SECOND INDEPENDENT VICTORY
Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport has secured its second Independents victory of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season, although a third podium finish of the year proved to be elusive on a dramatic day at Croft.
Widnes racer Paul O'Neill headed to the North East keen to rebound from a challenging weekend in his home round of the year at Oulton Park, where gearbox problems forced him to miss the first two races.
As a result, he slipped to seventh in the overall championship standings and fourth in the Independents' title race -- 27 points behind leader Steven Kane.
Paul was fifth quickest in first practice and then third in FP2 before qualifying ninth on the grid for the opening race of the weekend. Making up places throughout the opening 15 lap encounter, Paul took the flag in fifth having harried championship leader Matt Neal throughout.
A good start to race two saw Paul jump ahead of Neal off the line into fourth place but on the second lap, he was hit from behind at Tower -- which in turn saw Paul hit the BMW of Rob Collard. Crucially, that allowed Tom Onslow-Cole to get ahead and Paul found himself stuck behind the Ford, despite setting the fastest lap of the race. The battle between the pair would be the most enthralling fight of the race with Paul eventually making a move stick at the hairpin on the final lap to secure fourth place and top Independent honours.
Fourth on the grid for race three, Paul looked set to fight for a podium finish but was tagged by Gordon Shedden at turn one and slipped back to sixth place and was then tagged on the high-speed run into Sunny In by Rob Collard on lap two to drop to seventh. A puncture for Jason Plato saw Paul up to sixth and then he took fifth from Shedden at Tower on lap ten. An issue for Collard put Paul into fourth behind Tom Boardman's SEAT. Paul was unable to find a way past Boardman, and his ultra defensive driving allowed the cars behind to close in.
On the final lap, Boardman forced Paul wide exiting Tower, which allowed Steven Kane and Tom Chilton to come through and in a huge fight into the hairpin, Paul was then hit by Mat Jackson which meant he went into the corner sideways. However, he was able to get ahead of Boardman on the run to the line to take the flag in fifth place.
Paul now shares sixth in the overall standings and is third in the Independents' title chase -- just eight points off top spot.
"I've learned a lot about car control this weekend," he said. "At times I felt like Colin McRae I was being pushed about so much. It's been a good weekend, but to be honest with you, it could also have been better. Without the contact in race two and then getting stuck behind Tom, I honestly feel we could have won and I should have been on the podium in race three but was again hit by other drivers. However, we've finished inside the top five in all three races and got another Independent win which is great for the team.
"We've reached the middle of the season and the summer break with a real chance of winning the Independents' Championship with what is a true Independent team; there is no big budget here I keep saying it, but this team is a top three team and when we go racing again at Snetterton, I'm going to be going for the podium we missed out on here."
Team-mate John George showed encouraging pace at Oulton Park before an incident in the second race put him out of race three, with the Guernsey-based racer heading to Croft keen to break back into the points. An engine issue in qualifying left him 19th on the grid for race one but he battled through to finish in 15th place.
A points finish looked on the card as John worked his way up to 13th in the early laps, but contact from both Andy Neate and Rob Collard damaged the exhaust on his car and forced him into retirement. That left him 20th on the grid for race three, where a strong drive saw him climb up to 12th at the finish.
"It was a good weekend again and I showed strong pace against the rest of the field," he said. "I'm happy with that. It was disappointing that we lost the engine in qualifying and also a shame that I got hit by two BMWs in race two which damaged the exhaust, especially when they both then finished in the points. However, race three was really good to come through from 20th to finish twelfth, so even though I didn't get into the top ten, I'm happy with how the weekend went."
The Tech-Speed run team now sits sixth in the HiQ Teams' Championship and is third in the Independents' Teams Trophy having taken points out of both Airwaves BMW and Team Aon ahead.
"Overall we've had a good weekend," Tech-Speed boss Marvin Humphries said. "John has driven well again but was out of luck in the second race, and it was unfortunate for Paul that he found himself stuck behind slower cars in both race two and race three. The boys have worked really well again this weekend and we are coming away Croft and going into the summer break having scored some good points towards the championship."
Following the difficult weekend at Oulton Park, sunshine.co.uk MD Chris Brown was pleased to see the team return to form and said everyone involved would push hard to maintain the Independents' Championship challenge through the second half of the year.
"What am amazing weekend after the shocking outing at Oulton Park two weeks ago," he said. "The whole team came to Croft with just one plan and that was to get on with the job at hand, forget about recent run of bad luck and get back in the fight.
"Three outstanding drives by Paul not only lifted the spirits of the team but elevated us back up the championship standings. A strong twelfth place finish in race three by John also showed his pace. I just wonder where we would we be in if the mechanical gremlins hadn't have got us last time out. C'est la vie as they say.
"As we head into the summer break, sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed can take confidence from the fact that we aren't doing well because we are lucky, we are doing this well because we are great! Tech-Speed Motorsport do an outstanding job and the guys work their guts out to get those cars looking immaculate and running perfectly for each race. We'll be back in the second half of the season with an even stronger desire to succeed."
-source: Team sunshine.co.uk