The 2006 season proved to a frustrating one for Richard Marsh, as he made his return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with the Team Farecla Peugeot 307.

Despite being immaculately turned out from its debut meeting at Donington Park, a series of engine problems meant it was Finals Day at Silverstone before the team was able to show the pace it was capable of with the car.

However for the new season, the Peugeot will be replaced with an as-yet-unannounced car, which was one of the topics of discussion when Crash.net Radio spoke to Marsh just before Christmas to sum up his 2006...

Q:
We didn't see you out in 2005 Richard before you returned this past season with the Team Farecla Peugeot but it wasn't an easy season for you?

Richard Marsh:
No we had quite a few unexpected engine problems. We had hoped to start the season at Croft but things didn't quite arrive in time and you need to make sure that everything is correct before you start these things. We decided to put it out at Donington Park as it is my local track and we could make some good noise with that, both locally and also with a good spread in the programme. However, although we had tested the engine at Mallory without any problems, it failed at Donington, quite seriously, at the start of the third race.

We were on our back foot for the rest of the time as we had two engines and blew them both up and then we were trying to source Peugeot parts and there was a lead time to get them machined and things like that which is tough. We were a little bit 'cobbled together' until the end of the season when Judd came to help up with some midnight oil burning and gave us an engine that was fine and considerably quicker that completely transformed the car from one that toddled around at the back, not even in the race, to one that was able to hold off four or five people. In the end, it wasn't so bad but it was tough for me and tough for the team during the middle of our stint in the BTCC this year.

Q:
It must have been quite down-heartening after Donignton when so much had gone into getting the car and the team ready and you then hit those problems.

Richard Marsh:
It was. When it boils down to it, daft as it seems, we knew what our sponsors were looking for and we knew what they thought we were doing and whether we were successful or not, so they were very good to us and the ones we have on board for next season who we were talking to then understood what was happening and that we wouldn't be in the Peugeot for 2007. What we wanted to do, which was set up the team and get all the infrastructure ready and show sponsors what the BTCC has to offer, we achieved in spades.

The only thing that we didn't do is make the Peugeot work how we wanted it to, which is obviously a negative, but it didn't hurt us as much as it could have done because people knew why we had that car out and that it was just an interim thing, a relatively low cost project that wasn't always going to plan due to the engine issues. Fortunately engines don't reflect on you team when everyone knows they come from an outside source, and we changed our engine builder and the problem went away. In a strange way, it was a major success for us as we secured our sponsors for 2007, which was the whole point of the project, so we were still happy.

Q:
Did the problems you encountered in 2006 help make the team stronger as a BTCC weekend is a high-pressure environment and solving issues could bring the team together more?

Richard Marsh:
It does and it also highlights where your weak points are and shows what you can and can't do over the weekend. It became quite clear to us where we stood on that front and showed what we needed and what we didn't, so it was good in a strange way.

Q:
You came back into the BTCC after missing 2005. How tough was it to sit on the sidelines for a year before coming back?

Richard Marsh:
Missing a year wasn't a problem as I had my first child so it was always planned for me. That wasn't so bad, but not starting 2006 wasn't so good, as I thought I was going to be. It was a bit tough because we were ready to go but couldn't quite get the last few bits in place that we needed. However, we had a plan though and we stuck to it. We said we weren't going to put the car out until it was ready, or what we thought was ready, and once you have a plan it is quite easy to work to it.

Q:
During that year away there has been a lot of change and the BTCC continues to grow and evolve after a bit of dip a few years ago. What did you see as the main changes in the time since your final race with Varta in 2004 and the comeback this season?

Richard Marsh:
It was just better. The biggest thing I noticed was how open the organisers were to helping you, because the cars we had in the other team weren't at all competitive and we didn't get that feeling. This time, [series director] Alan Gow, [series co-ordinator] Dan Mayo and [media officer] Carl McKellar couldn't do enough to help to make sure that, within the regulations, you got everything that they were capable of giving you. That made it really easy and it was something that the sponsors were pleased about as sometimes in motorsport the organisers make it appear that it is a honour that you are able to compete with them and that isn't how it is in the BTCC.

Q:
You have been keeping your hand in during the winter with a Renault Clio. How has that been going?

Richard Marsh:
Its ok, I was out at Donington in it recently and it went well. It's just so that I'm not on the back foot when we get next years cars, I want to make sure that I'm a bit sharper. Anyone who knew me would know that during the time with Varta, I didn't test the car at all. They weren't particularly competitive cars anyway, but I didn't test and would just turn up on the Saturday. For example when I went to the Peugeot with Varta's name on it, I turned up for the seat fitting on Friday and then sat in it for the first time on Saturday when I went out for the 20 minute practice session.

You can't do it like that so I attempted to change it as much as I can. We got the Clio as it has a sequential gearbox and we are working on some stuff with that, keeping me sharp and keeping the team busy and then as and when the new cars are ready, we will put those out and announce it and get used to those cars. But we are just making sure that we are race ready rather than turning up at the first race a little bit rusty. It is pretty serious now so we have to make sure that we have done all that we can to be as high up as possible.

Q:
You mentioned that it won't be the Peugeot in 2007. When are we likely to get the confirmation on the car that you will be running?

Richard Marsh:
I'm not sure actually. We have a fantastic PR team that work with us who really know what they are doing and it is kind of in their court. I know what is under discussion and we aren't sure yet when we will do it. It's up to them, maybe early January but you either launch at the Autosport show and risk being at the same time as everyone else, in which case it isn't big news, or you do it a little bit before or a little bit after. We'll have to see. There are a few things that we want to have in place before we announce it and they are out of our control at the moment so we have to see when they drop in. I would imagine January at a guess but don't hold me to that as it isn't my call.

Q:
So we just have to watch this space then...

Richard Marsh:
I'm afraid so. If I could tell you I would but then they would have to shoot me!