To race fans he is part of the eBay Motors assault on the British Touring Car Championship, but away from the circuit, Rob Collard has proven himself to be just as successful in his 'day job'.

When not doing battle on track at the wheel of his BMW 125i M-Sport, Rob is the head of his own successful demolition business, which has been built up over two decades to become one of the main players in the field - with an annual turnover in excess of ?10 million.

But how did a king of demolition become a race-winning driver in one of the most competitive racing series on British shores?

"I come from a farming background originally and used to work with my father," he recalls. "Over the years, he expanded into waste disposal and also dabbled a bit in demolition, although it was something he didn't enjoy.

"I saw something in it though and decided I wanted to do more of it, so elected to set up on my own. It has taken a long time to build up the company from what it was then, and there was a lot of saving that had to go into getting my first digger.

"Now we operate something like 50 trucks and 30 diggers, the biggest of which is a 75 ton monster that has the ability to cut through girders and that we use to dismantle tower blocks. That machine alone costs around ?400,000 and we've used it on things like the British American Tobacco factory that we dismantled in Southampton - where there were 8,000 tonnes of steel to remove.

"In the same way that the BTCC is ultra competitive on-track, the demolition business is competitive off it and people will travel all over the country to try and get the big jobs. It's all about building a reputation that allows you to be at the front."

Rob's desire to launch his business saw his early racing career put to one side, with his focus firmly on ensuring that his new venture became a success.

Despite being a championship winner in hot rods, Rob's aim was always to make it in circuit racing, with time spent in Formula Ford before the switch to tin tops in the one-make Vauxhall Vectra Championship. A third place finish in 1999 led to a test with the factory Vauxhall BTCC team, and from then, there was only one series where he wanted to ply his trade.

Initially running his own car in the second tier of the series, because it was 'more cost effective', Rob moved into the main class in 2003 and took the Independents' title before his relationship with WSR - the team behind the eBay Motors programme - first started.

Seven wins and more than 30 podium finishes have followed across the seasons, with his success off-track being matched on it.

"I'd been successful in hot rods but when I was setting up the business, I had to put my racing to one side for a few years to get everything established," Rob adds. "Once things were up and running, I got back into things but wanted to move away from hot roads and decided to switch into circuit racing. At first, I did Formula Ford but I'd always wanted to race in the BTCC, so moved into saloon racing.

"When I got into the BTCC, I ran with my own team for four years and in 2003, we managed to win the Independents' title with the Astra, which was a fantastic achievement. In 2005, I then got the chance to race with WSR and the rest is history.

"When I look at what I have achieved so far, I'm happy with the racing career I've had, although if I was to do it all again, I wouldn't have spent as long in hot rods as I did and would have made the move to circuit racing earlier on. I'd have loved the chance to race in F3 and to have earned a factory touring car drive in the Super Touring days."

Now in his mid-40s, Rob remains as quick as ever on-track, but is also looking over his shoulder as the next generation of the Collard family embark on their own racing careers.

Sons Ricky and Jordan are already showing their talent in karting, with Rob hopeful that the lessons learned in both business and in racing will allow him to aid the two youngsters in their own careers.

"I hope that what I have learned will be a massive help for the boys," he says. "I was able to help Ricky to get involved with the late Martin Hines and the Zip Kart team through contacts I had made and for both and Jordan, the knowledge I've gained will hopefully prove to be beneficial. For Ricky in particular, there is a big decision to make in the near future about his move into car racing and my contacts and experience could be key to getting that decision right.

"While I still enjoy my racing as much as ever and don't plan to go anywhere, there will come a time when I do have to call it a day as I can't go on forever. When that time comes, I have to make sure that the boys are in the best possible position in their own careers."

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment