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News 2008: Rob Collard Back on Top of the BTCC

The last three seasons have been quite a roller coaster ride for Rob Collard and his racing career. But his stunning second place finish at Knockhill was a perfect way to show that Rob is on top of his game and thriving at Motorbase Performance.

Rob CollardRob sat out the 2007 BTCC season and a handful of races in the Carrera Cup did just not work out as well as hoped. He didn't gel with the car and resolved to get back into the BTCC in a leading car for 2008. But that was a big mountain to climb.

"To come back into the BTCC at a high level is very hard," he said. "I had a bit of a double whammy at the start of the season; being out for a year and then joining a new team as well as changing to a rear wheel drive car. It's taken a little bit for me to adapt to the BMW. It's a bit like your fitness. When you are doing it all the time, you don't realise how quickly you lose your fitness."

The number of top level BTCC drives available for 2008 was very limited and Rob knew that the Motorbase BMW squad was where he wanted to be; for that was surely his best chance of securing a drive that would give him the potential to win races again.

"There were opportunities to drive in the BTCC last year and there were teams I was talking to over the winter for this season," admits Rob. "But I resisted coming out with a second-rate team or with a second-rate car. I felt Motorbase was a very good team with a front-running car, and that was a very good choice that I made. In the past I've found myself going racing just to be there and getting in any old car. But that's not really done anybody any credit."

Rob CollardBut of course, both team and driver were on a big learning curve when the season kicked off at the end of March. "Unfortunately we signed the deal quite late, so we didn't get a lot of pre-season testing. It's a bit of an eye opener when you come back for your first race and find out how hard everybody is pushing."

The only solution in that situation is for everyone to work hard and pull together and the progress of the Motorbase squad has been one of the stories of the 2008 BTCC season.

"The team has been very good. We've worked very hard with the engineers and Steven is a very good team mate," said Rob. "Everybody has chipped away at it and we've now found a base set-up that works for both of us and the car are progressively getting quicker. We're now running in the top 10 in race form and I'd like that to be top six. The race pace we've had recently has been very good, but qualifying has been a problem and I think that's where the 30kg we're having to carry at the moment really hurts us."

Rob CollardRob also readily admits that the class of 2008 is one of the strongest he's known in his BTCC career. "It is a very, very competitive championship this year. There are more competitive cars than ever right the way through the grid. It's most definitely tougher than it's been for some time, right across the top 16 or 17 cars."

But at Knockhill, climbing onto the overall podium, all the effort and graft for Rob and the team was rewarded in style and his elation was clear to see. Rob Collard was back at the top of the BTCC and that was great news for everyone involved in this project. David Bartrum and his team were as elated as Rob at this fantastic result.

Of course, the hard work continues and with two more race weekends, including the team's home races at Brands Hatch coming up, no one can afford to ease off. But for Rob, that Knockhill result was vindication for two years of effort to get back to the top of the BTCC and it was a moment to savour. "I only want to come racing if I can be competitive. If I felt that I'd lost the edge and couldn't compete at the front, I'd be the first one to admit that and retire." Clearly, that's not an issue!