Another disappointing weekend in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Croft last weekend hasn't quashed Robb Holland's unwavering optimism heading into what he predicts will be a fruitful six-week mid-season break for Rotek Racing.
An encouraging start to the year has been followed by a series of galling new-car teething problems and the Nürburgring and Silverstone-based Rotek Racing team continues to grapple with its Audi S3 saloon while struggling to understand how to optimise its performance.
Having only experienced the North Yorkshire circuit on a simulator, Holland tentatively negotiated Croft Circuit's varied confines during free practice on Saturday and had his progress thwarted by indifferent weather conditions and the odd red-flag stoppage.
From 28th on the grid, the American's frustration continued in the first of Sunday's three races, as his Oakley Motorsports Audi S3 saloon was hobbled during a traditionally chaotic opening lap.
The start was delayed and the race distance shortened to 14 laps as a result of a suspected technical issue with Croft's lighting gantry, but the action got underway at the second time of asking, a spectacular series of incidents kicking off as the field converged on Clervaux and Hawthorns for the first time. A collision between former title-winner Matt Neal and current champion Andrew Jordan preceded another involving Adam Morgan and Rob Austin, while both Nick Foster and Jack Goff were also punted across the fairway and into the Croft infield.
Holland's Rotek Racing Audi S3 appeared to be hobbled as it emerged from the dust and debris and he pitted on lap six, losing three laps to the main pack before re-emerging and continuing on his way to finish 28th.
Round 14 was another race of attrition and provided just as much incident and intrigue as the preceding encounter. It was also provided far more amusement for Holland, who was able to get stuck in to some entertaining on-track battles. Several drivers faltered through contact and unforced errors and Holland was only too happy to pick up the pieces, climbing to 23rd position as he locked horns with the Welch Motorsport Proton Gen-2s of Daniel Welch and Ollie Jackson.
Approximately half a second split Welch and Holland on lap eight, but the latter was in a determined mood and pulled off a clean overtake to move into 22nd place on the ninth tour. The fight raged to the flag, but Holland staunchly defended his position and took the chequer with Welch and a recovering Simon Belcher underneath his rear wing.
Round 15 was all too brief for Holland because, having survived the first lap fireworks, a busted wheel nut – a recurrent problem Rotek Racing suffered during the formation lap – forced the Audi driver into retirement after a safety car intervention on lap four.
“It has been a tough weekend for the team and we definitely didn't have a handle on the car like we expected to, experiencing various small issues that hampered progress,” Holland sighed, “For example, we bust a wheel nut during the out-lap in race three, only for it to reoccur again after the safety car deployment. We've never had that problem before, so it's weird to say the least.
“The positive we can take is that we take the car home with no damage, which means we can get cracking with a thorough and comprehensive testing programme on the track, in the windtunnel and on the shake rig. These are all the things we hoped to do during the lead-up to the season so I'm looking forward to getting on with that straight away, seeing if we can make progress and get a better start to the second half of the season than we did in the first.”