Rob Collard made his return to the top of the podium during the opening rounds of the new HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship season at Brands Hatch, carrying Airwaves BMW to its maiden series win in the process.
Collard, who enjoyed a solid end to the 2008 campaign with the Motorbase Performance-run squad, was on the pace throughout the weekend as he looked to build on the solid performance shown during pre-season testing at the Kent circuit and qualified on the second row of the grid alongside fellow BMW racer Colin Turkington.
At the start, Collard jumped straight to the front of the field but was shuffled back to fourth by the finish, although he still managed to post the quickest lap of the race.
Another fine start to race two saw Collard hold second behind former team-mate Turkington going into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time, and he remained close to the Team RAC man before making his move in the closing laps to steal the lead and secure victory.
Unfortunately, an incident with Stephen Jelley early in race three – which led Collard to claim the former single-seater racer needed to 'cool it' – saw the race two winner drop to the rear of the field before he battled back to eighth place at the finish.
However, having secured his first win since the 2005 season, Collard was happy at the end of the weekend.
“It's a great feeling to be a winner again,” he said. “I hope I won't have to wait as long for the next one to come along. The Airwaves BMW 320si was fantastic all weekend and that gave me the confidence to push really hard when I got the chance. I knew when I had the pace to take Colin [Turkington] in race two and I just waited for my chance.
“Once I got past I just focused on keeping it tidy and making sure of the win. I'm just delighted to have been able to get the team's first BTCC win and reward David [Bartrum] and all of the guys in the garage.”
Team boss David Bartrum was also understandably thrilled with the weekend, which also saw rookie Jonny Adam take second place in the final race – having crossed the line first prior to being handed a post-race penalty.
“It was fantastic way to start the season for us,” he said. “It was important to start strongly and show that we could replicate the form we had shown in pre-season testing. Obviously it meant so much to me to secure our first win in the BTCC at our home circuit, it was a really emotional moment for all of the team. Both Rob and Jonny were outstanding this weekend, I'm very proud of them both. We knew we could be fast here and we've set a standard for ourselves for the rest of the year. We want to be right up at the front again in every round.”