Paul O'Neill insisted he wasn't surprised to secure sixth place on the grid for his return to the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton.

After missing the season opener at Brands Hatch, O'Neill was making his first appearance of the season in the Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Honda Integra, and his first appearance in the BTCC since the final rounds of the 2007 campaign.

The former factory Vauxhall driver was on the pace from the outset and was easily the quickest BTC-spec runner in both free practice sessions, but he raised the bar in qualifying and looked good for a second row start before late laps from other drivers bumped him down to sixth.

However, O'Neill insisted he wasn't surprised with the result at a circuit where the Integra has always gone well in the past.

"I don't know why people are surprised," he said. "The car is just very, very good - it's as simple as that. Sure, it's four years old but it was the class of the field in 2005 and Thruxton was always its best circuit. We've got a game plan for tomorrow - hopefully what we have in mind will pay off.

"I said I wanted a top six here at least and at the moment we're in a good position..."

O'Neill's team-mate Martyn Bell starts from 15th on the grid.