WIDNES driver Paul O’Neill believes he has the best chance in close to a decade to win a race in Britain’s most popular car series, writes Andrew Simpson.

He revealed this week that he will return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) behind the wheel of last season’s title-winning machine.

The 31-year-old has set his sights on a first race win since 2003 as a result.

“The car is a proven race-winner, so there are no excuses this time around,” he said.

“In testing, it has been everything I expected and I now just need to make the most of the time available the season starts.

“There is lots of potential for us to explore, but I feel we should be targeting top six finishes.”

The opening round, which consists of three races, is at Brands Hatch this weekend.

There, O’Neill will pilot a Chevrolet Cruze steered to victory by Jason Plato last summer.

He remains on the roster for Leamington Spa-based Tech-Speed Motorsport after a stunning campaign last timeout during that saw him collect a trio of top three finishes in an older-spec Honda Integra.

“I’m over the moon a deal has been done,” he said.

“We don’t have the big budget of some of the top teams when it comes to the overall championship, but I feel we can be in the running for the independents’ title.”

The Liverpool-born ace will again be backed by mobile phone retailer Go Mobile and previous team sponsor Sunshine.co.uk.

The online travel company bought Plato’s car for O’Neill, a race-winner as part of the factory Vauxhall team in the early part of his career.

“We’re really excited to be involved in the BTCC against this season,” said Sunshine.co.uk managing director Chris Brown.

“There is no doubt Paul is one of the best drivers on the grid and I’m sure Tech-Speed will continue be a force to be reckoned with too.

“We’re confident the team now has the tools to take the fight to the big boys and challenge at the front.”

O’Neill set the ninth fastest time at Silverstone on Thursday during the first collective test of the BTCC term.

Teammate John George was 16th quickest.

“I just can’t wait to get going now,” added O’Neill.

“I love the BTCC; it speaks to the British people, which is why so many fans follow the series.

“For me, it’s the best championship around.”