In Rob Collard's second exclusive column on Crash.net for 2013, the eBay Motors driver looks back at his first outings in the new NGTC-spec BMW 125i M-Sport at Brands Hatch and Donington Park…
Last time I spoke to you was before the new BTCC season burst into life at Brands Hatch, and any of you who were there – or who were watching at home on TV – will know that it wasn't the best way for me to start my season.
The eBay Motors team had worked hard to get all three cars ready for the first round and mine was the last one to completed, so the first time I got to drive it was in the shakedown test we do before every meeting.
When we got to Brands Hatch, we knew it wouldn't be easy, but we could never have predicted that it would be so difficult. I had engine problems with my car all through race day and didn't manage to get the chequered flag and while that was hard to stomach, that is racing and sometimes it happens. The guys within the team are all seasoned campaigners and we know there are highs and lows in motorsport – we just hit a real low at Brands Hatch.
It wouldn't be a lie to say that we'd probably hit rock bottom when we left the track on Sunday night, but the team worked hard to fix the issues that there were with my car before we went to Snetterton for a test.
The test went well, although the fact that it was wet meant we weren't able to collect as much data as we'd hoped. However, we were able to learn more about the car ready for Donington Park.
I was really hoping to get my season going when we got to the circuit, but it would turn out to be another tough weekend for my side of the garage. We continued to make good progress with the car but at the start, we didn't quite have the pace. That meant I was left in the middle of the pack and there are guys there who have some of the best cars on the grid, but who don't know how to overtake and crash into you.
In two of the three races, I had to deal with contact from other drivers which meant I only came away from the weekend with a best finish of twelfth, and we could certainly have done better than that.
Colin was able to benefit from the reverse grid draw in race three and it paid dividends for him as he was at the front and on the right tyres for the conditions. He managed to break away from the chasing pack and he did a fantastic job to win.
Without contact in race two, I could have been right at the front with him and picked up another good result for the team, as the pace I was showing by the end of race three was really good. The car was the best it has been so far, but I got knocked off at the start and couldn't show the potential there was.
Through the weekend at Donington, Colin, Nick and myself were all running different set-ups to evaluate the car and everything that we do at the moment is for the benefit of the team to help us move forwards.
It's been a very challenging period and has been character building, but we are starting to learn what works and what doesn't with this car and we have to try and push on when we get to Thruxton.
Thruxton could be a bit hit and miss as we don't have set-up for the circuit and its very unique, but the aim will be to get a strong result that we can then carry with us to Oulton Park.
If you'd asked me after Brands Hatch, or during the test at Snetterton, if I thought we would go well at Thruxton then I would have said it would be difficult, but the progress we made at Donington me feel we could have a good weekend and with Colin having now got a win under his belt, that has to be the aim again.
People on the outside don't get to see the progress being made by us and we are working hard to ensure that we can be contenders at the front of the field.
Colin's victory is a big boost to the team and hopefully it won't be long until I'm on the top step of the podium myself celebrating my first win of the year.
With Thruxton being my home event, this weekend would be the perfect place!
Until next time,Rob
To keep up to speed with Rob and the eBay Motors team during the 2013 season, visit the eBay Motors Hub at www.ebaymotorshub.co.uk