Rob Collard tasted the highs and lows of motorsport at Brands Hatch for the second meeting of the 2004 Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship this weekend - clinching his first ever BTCC pole position start in the opening round, before suffering problems in the remaining two races of the day.

In race two the reigning Independents Trophy champion was running with the leaders when his bonnet flipped open, while in the final race he was hit at the first corner by another car, breaking a wheel and again forcing him to pit.

The Collard Racing team had worked hard all weekend after gearbox and steering problems limited their track time in Saturday's Free Practice and Qualifying sessions. Rob was disappointed to be only 17th on the 22-car grid for the first of Sunday's three races - his goal a tenth place finish which would see him start the second race from pole under the championship's new 'reverse grid' role.

The opening race had a hectic start, several cars flying off the circuit - Rob taking advantage to gain six places on the first lap before the field followed the Safety Car while the carnage was cleared. Slotting into that crucial tenth place with several laps to go, Rob held it to the end in his Brackenwood Windows-backed Vauxhall Astra.

"The first lap was like being in a banger race!" said Rob, from Eversley in Hampshire. "I made a good start, then there was a lot of commotion on the back straight and I made places there. In all, I gained six places on the first lap, and after that it was a bit of a follow my leader, though I took a knock in the back, which effected the handling.

"When I realised I was tenth it all got a bit tactical - I didn't want to get too close to the car in ninth. It's great to have my first BTCC pole and I'll be running the car light with no ballast - so everyone look out!"

For race two Rob's car was in pride of place at the front of the grid, and he was soon battling with the big-budget factory teams that usually monopolise the front during the races. Bizarrely, while dicing for fourth the bonnet of his car sprung open and slammed into the roof of his Astra, forcing him to slow and pit, rejoining a lap down a to come home 15th overall.

"I was banging wheels with a couple of cars," explained Rob straight after that race, "there is a possibility that might have done something to the bonnet fixings.

"When the bonnet flipped my first thought was that I had been hit from behind. It hit the roof with a crash hard enough to knock off the rear-view mirror, which landed on my lap. I could still see OK through the gap under it - and I wanted to carry on but the team called me in. After running so high in the race and battling with the works cars it was disappointing and frustrating."

The third race of the day was Rob's final chance to score some points to aid his defence of the Independent's Trophy title, but his chances were dashed right at the start.

"My race was over almost immediately when one of the works Protons hit me at the first corner," explained Rob. "I'd given him loads of room, so I really didn't know why he did it - and that broke my front wheel. I had to get it changed, but the handling was bad from then on, and towards the end of the race I was just cruising round to try to score a few more points.

"This had been a weekend I'd rather forget."