Matt Neal, the privateer who dared to take on the factory giants and won, last night said his over-riding emotion was one of "relief".
Jubilant, yes, but the magnitude of victory in the British Touring Car Championship had not sunk in last night and has perhaps not yet today. He is sure to be nursing the hangover that he said he would almost certainly have after lifting the title at Brands Hatch.
Neal's victory came with third place in race two at the Kent racetrack, rendering the final heat of the championship superfluous. But the Droitwich driver had always wanted to finish on a high so fifth place in the last heat might have left him a little deflated. Not a bit of it!
"It is absolutely fabulous," said 38-year-old Neal, the first privately- sponsored driver to win the crown since
1991. He is hungry to repeat the feat and become the only driver to retain his title in recent years.
He said: "It is what we have always wanted to do and something we have worked towards for the past ten years. We have been through good times and hard times.
"Everybody who's involved in backing this team has won today. If you'd told me before the season started that I'd be crowned champion, when you think of who we've been up against - Vauxhall, SEAT and some other very good teams and drivers - I'd have struggled to believe it."
Neal works alongside father Steve at Team Dynamics but struggled to pick him out in the crowd through the tears of joy as he took the podium with twin sons, William and Henry.
"It is an emotional time for everyone," he said.
Neal, in a Halfordssponsored Honda Integra, started 30 points ahead of Yvan Muller, of the Vauxhall works team. With 52 points up for grabs, he needed only to finish among the points of each race to secure the title.
He was cautious in the first heat, finishing fourth behind team- mate Dan Eaves, Muller and Jason Plato, of Seat. Muller, his car laden with success ballast, was noticeably slower than Neal. But the Englishman refused to take risks and sat glued to the Vauxhall's bumper. Neal said: "Dan led from lights to flag and I tailed Muller the whole way round just to pick up the points."
In the second race, Neal went one better and celebrated his championship triumph on the podium after his third place. He suffered a scare, though, clashing with Muller in an incident which could have swung the title battle either way. Muller came off worse, suffering a puncture which dropped him to 12th and ended his challenge. Plato won the race from Eaves.
Neal said: "I tried to keep him [Muller] under pressure but was under orders not to do anything stupid. There were a few close moments when we were door handle-todoor handle at 130mph down the straight but Muller's puncture was it. I had won the title."
In the final heat. Rob Collard won in an MG, beating Seat's James Pickford. Vauxhall's Gavin Smith took third. Muller, Eaves and Plato had to retire together following a multi-car pile-up.
Neal added: "We were trying to secure second place overall; for Dan, but he had to brake hard and Muller drove into the back of his car at Paddock. I was 50 yards in front and well out of trouble."
After more than a decade in the series, Neal was overjoyed to finally end a season on top, saying: "Now we all just want to defend this thing. Even Vauxhall have never been able to do it with the same driver."
Yesterday's races confirmed that Vauxhall have won the manufacturers' crown, for the fifth successive season.