Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport will head into the 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season in confident mood following a strong performance in official pre-season testing at Brands Hatch this week.
The BTCC's season launch at the Kent circuit saw the Sunshine.co.uk Honda Integras of Paul O'Neill and John George hit the track for the first time in their new-look liveries for the season ahead, with the two drivers making the most of the testing time available to examine developments made to the car by the Tech-Speed team during the winter.
Having made his BTCC return with the team last year, O'Neill is back for a second season and enjoyed a solid day of testing, posting the eighth quickest time during the morning and again running in the top ten during the afternoon. That left him in a solid ninth place overall, just half a second behind the pace-setting Chevrolet Cruze of 2001 title winner Jason Plato.
“The car was really good but, personally, I feel I could have done better,” he said, “The time we set was good considering it was on older tyres and I didn't really get the most out of the newer rubber we put on the car, but setting times wasn't important. It was all about looking at some developments Tech-Speed have made to the cars over the winter and they worked really well. The car has had a full rebuild over the winter and it's in much better shape than it was at the end of 2009. It's in top shape and should do the business this season.”
New team-mate George joins Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed this season having run with his own team for the past three seasons. Despite feeling under the weather on the day, he was able to end testing little more than a second off the quickest time and heads into 2010 looking to enjoy his best BTCC season to date.
“Having a team-mate who is prepared to give me a hand will be a huge help this season – I haven't had that before,” he said, “I think I will learn a lot from Paul during the year and, in the morning session, I went quicker than I ever have before, and on old rubber, so I think that says that I can do a lot better than I have in the past. I'd really like to score at least one top ten finish from each round and I feel that would be a massive improvement for me. There are no mugs out there and it will always be difficult, but I feel we can achieve that aim this season.”
The 2010 campaign will mark the second season that the Sunshine.co.uk Hondas have been run by leading privateer outfit Tech-Speed. Having enjoyed a fine year in 2009 – capped by a podium finish for O'Neill at Snetterton – the team has worked hard to improve the Integras over the winter and will now look for more impressive showings during the year ahead.
“Testing went well, we had a productive day and everything went to plan - and it was good to see what our rivals are doing,” Tech-Speed boss Marvin Humphries said. “Paul had a good day in the car and wasn't far from the pace, but John was feeling under the weather and didn't do as much running as he planned to. Overall though, he has fitted in the team well and he and Paul are working well together. We really want to help John try and move up the grid this season.
“We tried a few things out on the car that we have been working on over the winter and we have made some steps forward. It's difficult to judge the opposition until we get to Thruxton but we are realistic with our aims and are hopeful that we can build on last year and have another strong season.”
2010 will also see Sunshine.co.uk involved in the BTCC for a third successive season and its second as title sponsor of the Tech-Speed team. With a year of running the Honda now in the bag, MD Chris Brown said he was confident that the team will once again impress during the year ahead despite the Integra being one of the oldest cars on the BTCC grid.
“We're really looking forward to the season,” he said, “Tech-Speed has put a lot of hard work into the car during the winter and they looking stunning in their new livery. We have a full year behind us now running the Honda so we have to look to build on the success we enjoyed last year. I'm confident we will do well, especially after Paul's performance in testing where he set some good times on older tyres and with more fuel in the car. John has also been lapping well and has settled into the team quickly, so we're confident for the year ahead.”