Paul O'Neill expects the Tech–Speed Chevrolet Cruze to be a strong package in the second half of this season, despite his Croft weekend ending in disappointment. The GoMobileUK.com with Tech–Speed only had a ninth place finish in race one to show for his efforts after an incident packed day.
The Widnes-born driver chose to start the opening race on slick front tyres as the track was drying out, and a mid-race safety car period played into his hands, with O'Neill making up ground in the closing laps to score two points.
O'Neill didn't feel the decision improved his likely finishing position though due to the time lost in the early stages.
“In the first race we took the gamble on tyres but we couldn’t quite get the heat into the slicks until later in the race,” he said. “However, I’m not sure the end result would have changed if we’d been on full wets, as all it meant was we were struggling for grip at the start while the others struggled at the end.”
Unfortunately for the popular driver, the remaining races were both cut short by crashes, first with Tom Chilton in race two before suffering another collision late in race three.
“In race two, the car felt really good and we had strong pace, but when I went down the inside of Chilton at the hairpin, we just touched wheels”, he explained. “I’ve probably done that move 15 times in the past few years and not had a problem. In race three, it was a carbon copy.”
With the BTCC now taking a seven-week break, O'Neill is hopeful that the team can make the necessary progress to turn the Cruze into a serious contender for the remainder of the season.
“We don't deserve some of the luck we have had so far this season but we can't change what has happened and have to look forwards. We are still learning the car and continue to make progress every weekend, as we could see in race two before the retirement. It all looks good for the second half of the season and we saw last year that it was after the summer break that the Cruze really came on song.”
In the sister car, John George's afternoon was ruined by an accident in race one when he lost control in the damp conditions, injuring his thumb. The Guernsey man later revealed that the pain was hampering him for the subsequent races.
“The incident in race one really handicapped me for the rest of race day as my thumb was extremely painful when I was changing gears, especially on the downshift,” he said. “There had been quite a bit of damage to the car after the incident and the boys did a great job to get me out on track for the second race of the weekend.”
“I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't achieve more this weekend, but I didn't quite have the pace. We've got a seven week break now before Snetterton so I need to work with the team to see what I can do to improve myself and the car as a package and then come out stronger and faster in the second half of the season.”