While a third overall podium of the season remained elusive Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport picked up its second independents victory out of the British Touring Car (BTCC) weekend at Croft.
The Team, and lead driver Paul O'Neill headed to North Yorkshire eager to bounce back from a disappointing previous round at Oulton Park, which saw the Widnes driver miss the first tow races at his home track with gearbox troubles, the lack of points dropping him to seventh in overall drivers' title and fourth in the independents' race – 27 points behind leader Steven Kane.
However, any lingering thoughts about Oulton were soon forgotten, O'Neill's Honda Integra fifth fastest in free practice, before qualifying ninth for the first of the three Sunday races.
Racing, the practice pace returned, O'Neill making up to place to take fifth place, shadowing double champion Matt Neal's works Honda Civic for much of the race, crossing the line only two-tenths of a second behind after the 15 lap race.
Race two saw the forward progress continue, O'Neill leap-frogging Neal on the second lap before contact with Rob Collard – lead best independent in race one – at Tower. The incident saw Collard fall away from O'Neill's bumper, and Tom Onslow-Cole sneak past both of them, with the sunshine.co.uk man right behind him.
Despite setting the fastest overall lap of the race O'Neill was firmly stuck behind Onslow-Cole's Ford, in perhaps the best battle on the track. The pressure finally paid off on the final lap, O'Neill completing the pass at the hairpin to beat the Team Aon driver to fourth place and the independents win.
The reversed grid for the third and final race saw O'Neill, his race two aggressor Collard and several other drivers in a physical battle for the top ten places, Collard again costing O'Neill time as the two approached Sunny In on the second lap. However, mechanical problems for those ahead, including Collard elevated O'Neill to fourth in closing laps, harrying Tom Boardman for an elusive podium spot.
He looked to have taken the place on the final lap until Boardman forced the Integra wide on the exit of Tower, allowing independent rivals Steven Kane and Tom Chilton though into third and fourth.
Coming into the final corner on the last lap Mat Jackson gave Paul a shove under braking, sending him skating sideways around the inside of the corner, inadvertently snatching fifth from Boardman in the process.
“I've learned a lot about car control this weekend,” O'Neill joked after the weekend. “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.”
Teammate John George also enjoyed good pace all weekend with three finishes culminating in a 12th place finish in race three despite being hampered by a dmage exhaust caused by contact with a pair of BMWs – almost certainly the Airwaves entries of Jackson and Kane.
At the half-way point of the season the Tech-Speed squad sit sixth in the HiQ Teams' Championship and third in the Independents' Teams Trophy, the Croft weekend allowing them to gain ground on both Team Aon and Airwaves.
Paul O'Neill himself has risen to third in the independent drivers' title race, now just eight points behind new leader Tom Onslow-Cole.