BTCC » 18 June 2009
O'Neill left to rue missed chance
Paul O'Neill saw his hopes of a popular podium for Team sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport come to an end at Croft after an alternator failure during the latest rounds of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship season.
O'Neill qualified in 15th place on the grid for the opening race, and battled his way through to the points to take ninth in race one before following that up with tenth place in the second race.
The luck of the reverse grid draw put O'Neill on pole for race three, which was held in difficult conditions after heavy rain hit the circuit. He held the lead off the start but was unable to make the most of the clear track in front of him thanks to two Safety Car periods. Unfortunately, on the second restart, the alternator on the Honda failed and O'Neill was left with little option but to retire from the lead.
"Despite the way it ended, I really enjoyed myself over the weekend," he said. "Qualifying was a little frustrating because I lost about three tenths of a second on my quick lap which would have put us in the top ten. In race one, I brought it home in the points but in race two, I hit a kerb hard and thought something had broken on the car so I took it a bit easy.
"We got the benefit of the reverse grid and the car was mega in the wet. Fabrizio [Giovanardi] may have had something to say about it, but I think we could have broken away without the Safety Car and benefitted from a clear track. The car felt mega and I had loads of grip but then the alternator failed and it was game over - but these things happen. It's just a shame as we had the pace in the car.
"However, I'm confident that all the circuits left on the calendar will suit the Honda and I'd love to reward the team with a podium after the summer break."
Team-mate Martyn Bell qualified 20th on the grid in the sister car and suffered a scare in the opening race when the throttle jammed on the exit of the chicane, although he was able to bring the Honda to stop and fix the issue before continuing to finish 15th.
A spin early in race two hit his hopes, but he battled his way back through to 13th at the finish and in race three, he survived the challenging conditions to take eleventh, maintaining his perfect finishing record through the first half of the year.
"I was on the back foot after qualifying as I clipped a tyre stack and had to come in to have the car looked at by the team," he said. "When I went back out, there was oil on the track from one of the Fords so I couldn't improve my time. In race one, I got away okay but then as I was coming through the Chicane, the throttle jammed wide open. I managed to stop the car so I could reach down and dislodge it - which is a good job as I'd have been in the next county if I'd got to Tower and not been able to stop! I was way behind after that so just brought it home in 15th. I had a spin early in race two but managed to catch a few people for 13th and then there was the rain for the final race.
"To be honest, that race shouldn't have run in my eyes as it was just too wet. When they restarted it for the final time, there were ten drivers in front of me who could have smashed up their cars fighting for position, but I wasn't prepared to risk the car and brought it home in eleventh. It's more Independent points for the team, which is the important thing, although it was disappointing that the final race went the way it did for Paul."
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