Having qualified eighth on the grid in race one for Sunday at Silverstone and setting the quickest time of the BMW's, TCF caught up with West Surrey Racing's Rob Collard to get his thoughts on the qualifying session.
“Qualifying went as good as we can expect really” Rob said. “We are bang on the pole time of last year, we've got a car that hasn't really been developed unlike the Honda's and Chevrolet's that have all had massive concessions over the winter . We are very happy in the fact that we've got the time, but we're not happy where we are on the grid.”
It's an obvious concern for the team who won the championship with Colin Turkington at the helm last year. Rob continued by telling me, “Something has really got to be done about the speed of the turbo cars. They have gone a second faster than pole last year and this is just going on and on and on. It's belittling this championship.”
We asked him what he thought was the best way to deal with this advantage the Fords seem to be having over the rest of the grid as it's not only Collard who is upset by the pace of the Gas powered cars. Most of the other drivers have raised concerns throughout the season over the straight line speed of the Turbo Focus. “I really don't know how we can get around it”. Rob said. “The teams have got to sit with Mr Gow [Alan Gow Championship Administrator] and do something because there is no way cars should be able to come into the championship and have that sort of advantage. It's like putting a Porsche Carrera 997 on the grid and it's a three litre. Or come in with a BMW three litre. If we did that and we had a clear 20 or 30 horsepower advantage it wouldn't be allowed. But with the Turbo cars, it's just ridiculous. It's not a fair race at the moment.”
Clearly upset with the advantage over the opposition that Team Aon have, we asked him what his targets were for race day. “We just have to do the best we can.” He said. “It is what it is. We can't miraculously bolt half a second on. We've just got to hope they can't repeat that speed for a long time in the race as it's proved this season when they get away and then fall back. But it's frustrating being so far back on the grid.”
Another factor for Collard's somewhat frustrating season was highlighted when I asked if we would be seeing a trade mark quick start from him off the grid. To which his reply came, “If you had asked me that last year I'd have said yes definitely, but no, we can't do that. We've been handicapped with a longer first gear so we have no advantage at all on the start anymore.”
The news that TOCA have enforced restrictions on the Ford's with immediate effect after their qualifying pace will be some crumb of comfort to Rob Collard and a number of other drivers on the grid, but what effect that has will remain to be seen. One thing is for certain though, this is a debate that will run for at least as long as the championship battle itself.