Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed came away from Rockingham a very happy team as Paul O’Neill secured their first Independants’ victory and a podium finish in the final race of the weekend.
During the opening race of the day O’Neill took a gamble on dry tyres, despite the morning rain the choice paid off as he leapt from tenth place up to sixth over the course of the race.
Race two would see him battle on eighth place as a result of losing time after contact with Mat Jackson in the opening stages of the race.
With the top nine positions on the grid reversed from the race two result O’Neill would find himself on the front row of the grid for the final race. As the lights changed the Widnes based driver leapt around the outside of Matt Neal, only to concede a place to Tom Onslow-Cole in the charging Ford Focus.
Onslow-Cole would hold tight for twelve laps until O’Neill saw an opportunity up the inside of Chapman, releasing him to chase after the unchallenged Matt Neal out front. Unfortunately for O’Neill the pace of the Honda would prove too much leaving him to settle for second place overall 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 didn’t have the best of the weekends after only getting back in the country on Thursday from being stuck in Spain following the fall out from the volcanic eruption in Iceland. A wrong call for tyres on the opening race forced him to pit for slicks, dropping him down to sixteenth.
The second race would end with retirement after a collision with Clio Cup graduate Alex MacDowall.
For the final race of the day George battled hard but was forced to take avoiding action on the opening lap to avoid getting caught up in someone elses accident, this caused him to spin and stall, losing valuable places and finishing in an overall fifteenth position.
“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.”
“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.”
sunshine.co.uk MD Chris Brown was a happy man after a tough week, “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.”
Photo credit: Vince Pettit Photography