Paul O'Neill ready for 'Brands' new MINI Challenge at GP Weekend
11/09/2012 - British Touring Car favourite Paul O'Neill says he is here to win and not to just make up the numbers as he makes a wild-card entry into the MINI Challenge at the MSVR GP Weekend on (15/16 September).
The likeable scouser has become a firm fans' favourite in the British Touring Car Championship over the years and now he bids to challenge the next wave of future BTCC stars in the MINI Challenge on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. Despite racking up numerous BTCC podium finishes, O'Neill admits he faces a stern challenge, but like all drivers he is hungry to pick up another win.
He said: "I race cars for a living and I don't do it just for the fun of it, so of course I want to win. But I won't underestimate the competition. I won't be hanging back but at the same time I'm not going to ruin anybody's championship. I love a bit of racing, I'm clean I don't like to fire people off so I just hope people don't use me as a target."
Budget constraints have limited the 32-year-old to sporadic appearances in this year's BTCC but he has remained a force to be reckoned with, highlighted by a superb fourth behind the wheel of Tony Hughes' Toyota Avensis at Knockhill last month. Like any driver who has been on the sidelines, he is excited to be back racing and joining the ever popular MINI Challenge grid.
The MINI Challenge has become one of the most important one make tin top championships in the country and O'Neill believes any of the top six would easily be competitive in the BTCC. The former works BTCC Vauxhall driver and two-time race winner, who coaches MINI Challenge racer Craig Freeman, is expecting arguably his toughest battle of the season to date and a top six finish is the immediate target.
He said: "I love the cars; they are great to drive so I'm really looking forward to it. It is a tough field out there. The guys in the top eight of the championship are as fast as anyone in any other club championship and I'd like to think that any of the top six could be able to jump into the BTCC and not disgrace themselves. I don't expect to be winning but if I can get in the top six I will be made up, that is how good the competition is."
Work on next season's plans has already begun for O'Neill with the objective being to make a return to the BTCC in 2013.
O'Neill's inclusion on the grid for this weekend's three MINI Challenge races will bring another variable into what will be an intriguing meeting. Paul will be racing in the Excelr8 number 58 and to follow his progress log on to www.msvracing.co.uk.
Tickets for the MSVR Club Car Championships at Brands Hatch on 15/16 September are available from £10, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.