Paul O'Neill gave the GoMobileUK.com with Tech–Speed squad a podium to start the new season and a new era with the team with the new colour scheme on a new car – the Chevrolet Cruze.
O'Neill was on the pace all day, scoring solid points races one and two before being presented with a third place start for the day's final race by way of the BTCC's customary random reverse grid draw. Competing against the turbocharged cars using engines designed to the newer NGTC spec the no.29 Cruze dropped back to fourth after lap five as Mat Jackson powered past.
O'Neill, however, was strong enough to hold off Jason Plato – also in a Chevrolet Cruze, albeit a up-spec one compared to the Tech-Speed entry – to stay fourth and inherited a place on the final step of the podium when Andrew Jordan was forced out of second with a puncture.
“This is just what the whole team deserves as these guys are the hardest working in the paddock,” said O'Neill at day's end. “The experience of the team and my own experience told me that the most important thing this weekend was to maximise the track time available to help us learn about the car, as we'd have learned nothing if I'd been parked in the gravel. I used my head all weekend and never gave up.”
“Jason [Plato] and RML are the benchmark for us and to have been able to pull away from him in the final race was a sign to anyone who may have questioned what we can do with the car. We've got a good relationship with RML and we're only scratching the surface at the moment with the Chevrolet and this is a good start to our season.”
John George will once again joined Widnes-based O'Neill at the team for 2011. While unable to add any points to the team's overall haul, the three races saw George learn progressively more about the new car after four campaigns in the BTC-spec Honda Integra.
Though his forward progress up the field was hampered by a bump through the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap in the second race the final race saw him put down his fastest lap of the weekend – an encouraging sign of things to come as the BTCC heads to Donington Park for the series second round.
“I struggled a bit early on in the weekend but in the end I felt at one with the car and my times improved,” he said. “I wanted to try and get into the top ten this weekend, but the main thing was to spend time in the car and the improvement was shown by my times.”
While O'Neill lies sixth in the overall drivers' points and third in the independents' standings behind early leader Jackson, the team is fifth in the HiQ teams' championship and third in the independents' table, Airwaves Racing leading that too after one weekend.