Rob returns to the podium at Donington
Despite wet and blustery conditions courtesy of Storm Hannah the weekend brought about a clutch of strong results and the first podium of the season for Rob Collard.
The Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing trucks rolled up at the Donington Park circuit in Derbyshire for Rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the Kwik Fit MSA British Touring Car Championship at the weekend (28 April).
A solid qualifying performance saw him start race 1 in the top 10, seizing his first championship points of the season as he crossed the line 10th. In race 2 he made the best use of the Option (hard) tyre to bring it home 7th which set up up a reverse-grid start of 4th place for race 3. Continuing to build on steady performance throughout the weekend a podium was in sight from the off, eventually finishing in 2nd place and securing fastest lap.
Rob Collard said: “Very, very pleased to get my first podium for Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing and Vauxhall. A lot of people wrote me off over the winter, and I’m pleased to prove to the team and everybody that I’m here! I think our season started this weekend. Brands Hatch was a disaster from a tyre-choice point of view, but we were quick yesterday, we were quick today and it’s all looking very positive going in to Thruxton.”
Adam Weaver, Team Principal, Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing explained: “After the previous round at Brands Hatch, which we’d rather not think about, this weekend has us back where we should be. We’ve pulled in some much-needed points this weekend, and proved to everyone that we’re far from out of the game.”
Free Practice sessions on Saturday morning were held in wet and very blustery conditions, courtesy of Storm Hannah. However, both drivers showed strong pace, with Jason in Car 11, finishing 4th quickest, and fastest front wheel drive car, with Rob experimenting with set up to come in 17th.
Fortunately, Hannah’s all-access-pass was rescinded for Race Day, with storm conditions giving way to a dry and calm day, with even the sun making a guest appearance.
The start of Race 1 saw both Vauxhall Astras make good starts from Rows 5 and 6 on the softer Prime Dunlops, with Rob being squeezed down the inside of the pack and Jason looking to sweep around outside of Redgate. The former double champion made the move stick, and raced on down toward the Craner Curves in P9 only for Rob to try to bravely hold on around the outside before slotting in to P10.
Just as the two Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astras exited the Old Hairpin, carnage ensued behind, as Jordan’s BMW lost it on the exit, triggering a flurry of spinning cars and the Safety Car.
As the marshalls cleared up the mess, the PMR crew were busy both checking damage on Rob’s car, which included sill and exhaust outlet, and a conversation with Jason about whether he had overtaken the Honda of Matt Neal under Safety Car. Car 9 was deemed to be safe to continue and Car 11 was advised to give the place back, dropping to 10th before the Lap 7 restart.
As the pack headed into Redgate, positions 3 to 11 were covered by a postage stamp, with both PMR drivers right in the mix, only for another Safety Car, as Nick Hamilton was turned around as he tried to enter the pit lane for a drive through.
At the restart Plato was P10, fighting Chilton, and Rob was battling with Butcher, losing out at the Old Hairpin to fall to P12. From there, the Eversley ace fought back past the Honda and started to close on his teammate, the Astras finishing in line astern in P10 and P11.
After affecting repair on the number 9 Astra, Rob started Race 2 on the hard tyre and held on over the opening laps in P12. Meanwhile, Jason slid inside Butcher at the chicane at the end of Lap 1 and inside Smiley at the Old Hairpin on the next tour.
On Lap 3, there was another Safety Car, this time when Blundell and Osborne failed to resolve a territorial dispute under braking for the chicane.
The Lap 7 restart caught a few drivers out as the field split into three packs. In the pack from P4 to P10, Jason held the inside line on the exit of Redgate, only for Tordoff to come over unnecessarily and spin across the Vauxhall’s bows, leaving the Oxford ace with nowhere to go except across the grass, dropping to 14th.
Rob benefitted, moving to 9th and then to P8 on Lap 10, with Jason following through, now in P12.
On Lap 13 the Safety Car made its fourth appearance of the day so far, closing the field up again and setting up a three lap blast to the finish.
With Rob Collard the highest Option (Hard) tyre runner in P8, Jason Plato took advantage of his teammate’s cold tyres to sweep around the outside of the Craner Curves to slot into P7. By now the Astra was flying, being fastest car on the track, as Jason sliced inside Cook at Redgate for P6 and closing on P5 before the flag fell with Rob expertly holding his own to cross the line in P7.
On a day when rear wheel drive cars appeared to have an advantage, the two Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astras had earned the right to start near the front for Race 3. The draw determined Grid 4 for Rob and Grid 5 for Jason.
Car 9 made a great start around the outside of turn 1 at Redgate to move into 3rd place. At the same time Jason, on the hard tyre, struggled to get off the line and was swamped a little, dropping to P8 as, yes you’ve guessed it, another Safety Car was required. This time it was for Goff, who had contrived to hit the unlucky Hamilton.
The mess was cleared up by Lap 7 and Collard wasted no time in moving past Hill into 2nd place at the chicane. Although two clean laps immediately pulled the Astra away from his pursuers, it took a time for the gap to 1st position to start to diminish. Once into his stride however, Rob then started to really fly, setting Fastest Laps at will as the gap came down. Searching for his first win in a front wheel drive car since 2005, Rob ultimately ran out of laps to finish a superb second.
Further back, Jason was embroiled in a major scrap with old adversaries including Turkington, Chilton and Sutton , even managing to get up to 5th by Lap 15. Being caught up behind Hill ultimately cost Car 11 his 5th place, as he succumbed to P7 at the flag, frustrated but happy with the direction the Team is heading.