Rob Collard admitted that he was 'delighted' to have secured a superb second-place finish for Airwaves BMW in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in race three at Silverstone at the weekend – and contended that had it carried on just one lap longer, he would have won.
Collard enjoyed a thrilling race-long duel with Mat Jackson around the Northamptonshire circuit, eventually finishing just two tenths of a second behind the Chevrolet which dominated the meeting. The BTCC's reverse grid format had gifted the Hampshire star pole position for the weekend's third encounter, and the 40-year-old duly sprinted away when the starting lights went out.
Though initially building up a healthy lead, Collard found himself being reeled in by the flying Jackson, who successfully made his move shortly after half-distance, but the early leader quickly made it clear that he was not going to give in without a fight, and latchd right back onto the tail of the Chevrolet Lacetti again in the closing stages. Practically glued to Jackson's rear bumper for the final five laps, Collard tried every which way to find a way by, but his wily adversary kept a tight line that allowed no room for attack, artfully staving his pursuer off the chequered flag. Just one more lap, though, Collard reckoned, and it would likely have been a different story.
“I'm absolutely delighted for team to be able to bounce back like this after the run we've had,” he enthused. “The car was stunning and we can't complain about the results – it was a really good day's work.
“It was a great fight with Mat in the last race, and if I'd had just one more lap I'm sure I would have had him as his tyres seemed to have given up on him. All credit to him, though; he hung on tight, and at the end of the day I was happy to pick up another trophy for the Airwaves BMW team after all the hard work the guys in the garage put in to get us back in contention.”
Indeed, that rostrum finish – Collard's third of the 2009 campaign – helped to atone for a disappointing opening two races of the day. In the first, the four-time BTCC race-winner had taken full advantage of his BMW's rear wheel-drive to bolt into the lead off the line from second on the grid, but after being passed by the irresistible Jackson on lap four, a safety car period for the 'offs' suffered by Tom Onslow-Cole and series returnee Anthony Reid erased Collard's gap over the following Chevrolets of Jason Plato and Jason Plato, against whom he was powerless to defend once the racing resumed. He would cede further places to championship leader Colin Turkington and defending title-winner Fabrizio Giovanardi before the race was out.
Race two was even more frustrating, as out on slick tyres on an increasingly wet track surface Collard made encouraging early progress to move from sixth up to fourth, but as he attempted to challenge Turkington for third, a tap from the following Giovanardi sent the Airwaves machine sideways and dropped him down to ninth spot. The former Formula ford Festival winner subsequently gave the same treatment to the sister Vauxhall Vectra of Matt Neal, and on lap 17 lost ground as he focussed on avoiding collecting the spinning Stephen Jelley right in front of him, eventually going on to cross the line just ninth.
Team-mate Jonny Adam, by contrast, enjoyed three strong points-scoring finishes. A bright start in race one elevated the softly-spoken Scot to fifth ahead of Team RAC duo Turkington and Jelley directly ahead of him on the grid, and he would go on to enjoy a lively joust with the former before losing out to the charging Giovanardi following the safety car, as a result of tyres that were by then past their best.
Eighth place in that outing was followed by seventh in race two, again making a strong getaway when the lights went out to gain ground and recovering from a wobble halfway through in the treacherous conditions to come home seventh. A poor start from third in race three, however, cost the 24-year-old ground, and he subsequently came off worse in a fraught squabble with Turkington and Giovanardi before taking the flag a competitive sixth, enabling him to close right up on VX Racing's Andrew Jordan ahead of him in ninth in the title standings.