A hard round for Tom and guest racer Paul O’Neill
The latest race weekend provided the usual bout of drama for Team HARD! Regular Tom Onslow-Cole was piloting the PPCGB/Kraftwerk VW Passat whilst ITV pundit and fan favourite Paul O’Neill joined him in the RCIB Insurance Racing Insignia as a one-off special appearance.
Before the weekend even started, the team took a detour over to Donington Park so Tom could shake down his car after the carnage that took place place during the previous round. This also gave a chance for Paul to step inside what would be his steed for the weekend for the very first time. After a few laps, both drivers were happy and they continued their journey north to the Knockhill circuit.
Qualifying on Saturday started well for Paul, showing he was still in pace even though he had been out of the seat for over 12 months. Tom was also doing well and was looking good for the final runs to set up his lap times. However this all changed; with Paul on a flying lap, he was caught in a collision coming into the final hair pin with fellow team racer Kieran Gallagher, and that was his qualifying session over. By comparison, Tom saw an uneventful qualifying and came in 13th.
By Race 1 the following day, Team HARD had put Paul’s car back together and the crew were hoping for a better day. Then when the lights went, all the cars made it through the first corners cleanly and within 3 laps Paul had made good progress and was just a few places behind Tom. However, Paul was being hounded by Nick Foster which eventually culminated in Nick assisting Paul into the wall (and then into the pits) just after the final hair pin. The race then continued with little incident, with Tom finishing 13th. Foster was later reprimanded by the officials for the incident.
With the damage to Paul’s car being too much to repair in just 2 hours, Paul was out for Race 2. Tom on the other hand made a good start, but with his tyres going off too quickly, he dropped back the places he had made up and finished the race in the same position he started.
For Race 3, the RCIB Insurance Racing crew produced an amazing feat. They rebuilt the entire front end of Paul’s Insignia, including a full engine change, and managed to get it on the grid. This however was to be short-lived; his car unfortunately succumbed to the previous damage and he was back in the pits after just a few laps. In another unlucky turn for the team, Tom displayed consistent driving before his engine overheated and he was also taken out of the race.
Although the weekend’s results weren’t what the team were hoping for, the racers performed admirably and team principle Tony Gilham said, “I am immensely proud of them and they rose to the challenges put in front of them.”
The team now stand 8th in the championship and 5th in the Independent’s trophy; for independent racer results, please visit the BTCC website here.
The next round of the BTCC takes place at Rockingham on 15th September.