The Egg:Sport Vauxhall team has contracted rising star Paul O'Neill to partner Matt Neal in this year's British Touring Car Championship, underlining the Briton's rapid rise through the motorsport ranks.

For the second year running, internet bank Egg will be partnering Triple Eight Race Engineering - the team responsible for the works Vauxhalls - in fielding a pair of distinctive green-and-blue Astra Coupes. The team confirmed the signing of BTCC veteran Neal at the Autosport show earlier this month, but surprised the paddock with today's announcement.

O'Neill, brother of singer Melanie Chisholm [aka Sporty Spice], is a relative newcomer to the racing circuit started his motorsport career in 1999, gaining valuable track experience in the MGF Cup. He raced in the BTCC for the first time in 2001, finishing eighth in the Privateer Drivers' championship, having taken one pole position and three podium finishes.

"I am really excited about this year," the Liverpudlian bubbled, "It is great to be driving with a dynamic team such as Egg:Sport, they had a great result last year and hopefully I can help them do even better this year."

Tony Williams, marketing communications director for Egg, was happy that the team had managed to sign a young talent to partner Neal, following the departure of 2001 drivers James Thompson and Phil Bennett.

"We are delighted to have Paul on board," he said, "I'm sure his enthusiasm to win will help Egg:Sport maintain its success and put us on the podium time and time again in 2002."

This year's BTCC commences with race one on 1 April at Brands Hatch - and one team at least looks set to give commentators a problem with names!


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