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Highs and lows

12 September 2013

In Rob Collard's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the eBay Motors driver looks back at rounds six and seven of the 2013 BTCC season at Snetterton and Knockhill…

Hi guys,

When I last wrote to you, preparations were well underway for the start of the second half of the BTCC season at Snetterton.

We'd been able to spend two days testing at the circuit with the new BMW 125i M-Sport and it had gone well, meaning we were confident about our chances when the action restarted in Norfolk.

However, it turned out to be the most challenging weekends I've had on a racetrack for some time...

Shortly before the end of my 'summer break', my eldest son Ricky had gone out to Italy to compete in the European Karting Championship event at the Ortona circuit.

The weekend was going well and he'd been the fastest British driver to earn himself a good position on the grid for the final. However, when the race got underway, there was an incident in the field, which ended with another kart coming down on top of Ricky.

The race was immediately red-flagged so he could get medical attention, but the situation went from bad to worse.

We could see the accident had been a bad one at the time, but then we realised how serious his injuries were. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he was transferred to hospital with internal bleeding and a punctured lung, and was taken into intensive care.

Although he was soon on the road to recovery, the two weeks leading up to Snetterton were spent going backwards and forwards from home to Italy to be with Ricky in hospital.

It was a difficult time for the whole family, especially when we then discovered that Ricky had also suffered a fractured vertebrae in the accident, which would increase his recovery time and delayed his return home.

It all meant that the Snetterton race weekend turned out to be a real challenge.

Ricky has become part of the BTCC family as he's grown up in the paddock so everyone knows who he is, and they were all aware of what had happened. Everywhere I turned, people were asking me how he was doing and if he was improving, and it was comforting to see the concern that people had for him.

At the same time though, it also made it hard for me, as there was nowhere to hide in the paddock where I could just have ten minutes to myself. It made it a challenge to get away from what was going on away from the circuit.

I don't think there is any doubt that Ricky's accident had an affect on my performance on track that weekend, as I knew that he was being transferred to another hospital while I was away racing.

I was on the back foot after qualifying, and 16th on the grid wasn't what I'd been aiming for. I just didn't get the car hooked up and it left me to try and fight back on race day.

The first race went well to come through into the top ten, but race two was really disappointing. I'd been working my way forwards but came under pressure from Gordon Shedden. He pulled a good move into the Esses and I had to give him room and let him go.

A few laps later, I had a run on him coming down the back straight and tried to pull the same move. It was a classic touring car move where you go round the outside on the first part of the corner to get the inside line for the right-hander.

Unlike earlier on, Gordon didn't give me any room and his front wheel made contact with my rear wheel and broke the suspension, meaning I then spun off at the next corner. I was far from happy as it was contact that didn't need to happen, and I felt it was an unnecessary risk on his part as a championship contender.

It also left me at the back for race three and continued the run of bad luck I'd had before the summer break. It was tough, but I managed to come through to pick up more points from a weekend I just wanted to put behind me.

Between Snetterton and Knockhill, Ricky was cleared to return home and it was a fantastic lift to have him back in the UK and to know he was going to recover.

It meant I headed to Scotland much more focused on the job at hand at a circuit where I'd won twice last year in the older S2000 BMW. I have to admit that I wasn't feeling too confident on our chances as we'd had a reduction in boost. I honestly thought it would hurt us on the run out of the hairpin and would stop us fighting towards the front.

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised with how things panned out.

Although I had a problem with the steering in qualifying that meant I was twelfth on the grid, race day was easily the best I've had this year. The car was fantastic in each of the three races and to come away from the weekend with my first podium finish of the year felt brilliant.

While we did lose out in a straight line because of the boost levels, we were so strong on track because of the work that the guys at WSR had done on the chassis. They've worked so hard this season and Knockhill was a weekend where we really reaped the benefits of that work.

To be on the podium meant a huge amount to me, and is a great achievement with a new car considering the strength of the grid this season. In the last three or four years, I'd been picking up seven or eight podium finishes and it had been a long wait for the first one of the year. The focus now is to make sure that more follow in the remaining rounds.

The first of those rounds will be at Rockingham and, on paper, it should be a tough weekend for us; although I thought the same ahead of Knockhill.

Rockingham is a different kind of circuit, and the cars that are running with maximum boost are going to have a huge advantage on the oval part of the circuit and they could be maybe 5-6mph quicker than us. We'll be quick through the infield though, and will have to see how things even out over the course of a lap.

I've mentioned enough about Ricky's recent troubles, but things have been going much better for Jordan with his karting. He recently took part in the London Cup event at Rye House and took a top six finish, which continued the strong form he's shown this season. While he has only been taking part in Club events this year, he is progressing well and hopefully he can carry that on through the rest of the season.

Anyway, it's time for me to sign off, so keep your fingers crossed for a strong showing at the 'Rock.

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.


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