The small AFM Racing team believes it can take plenty of encouragement from the opening rounds of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship after the privateer outfit made its return to the series at Brands Hatch.

Having sat out the entire 2008 campaign, the team managed to secure a late entry into the new season with Nick Leason now at the wheel of the unique, diesel-powered BMW 1 Series.

With the car having undergone plenty of work during its year away from the track, the team went into the weekend looking to improve on its performances during the 2007 season, and while Leason was forced to retire from race one after going off at Clearways, he was able to bring the car to the finish in both race two and race three - dicing with the defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi in the final race of the day as the Vauxhall ace battled damaged steering on his Vectra.

"It's just been a phenomenal weekend for us as small independant team," team manager Steve Collins said. "The support from everyone has been fantastic and Nick has done an excellent job and driven his socks off especially when he was up against Giovanardi.

"There are some handling issues needing to be addressed. This will enable to get the power down quicker which we are just unable to do at the moment. But at least we know we can take this away and improve if only we can get the financial input needed. Our budget in comparison to some other teams is very minimal, only allowing us to run on two new sets of tyres this weekend!

"What could be achieved with a sensible budget in these economic times would be amazing. I think we could turn a few heads."

Leason himself, returning to the series after his planned campaign in 2007 with BTC Racing fell through after the opening few rounds, said he was proud of the team for the way in which it had worked to get the programme together for the new season and said he was pleased with how the weekend had gone.

"It's been one hell of a week for us, from losing a sponsor and not being on the grid to three days prior the season-opener announcing we were going to be out at Brands Hatch," he said. "We had to pinch ourselves when on turning up at Brands Hatch on Thursday afternoon, it has been an incredible achievement for everyone involved.

"The whole team have done an excellent job and I am very proud of them, fore what has been achieved this weekend. Its not been easy and we still go away with a few issues on the car regarding handling. We are constantly improving all the time and know will be competitive with a bit more help and support, which I really hope we can achieve. The public support from all the fans and teams over the weekend has been just incredible and overwhelming and we hope we can pay them back with our continual progress and efforts."