Rory Collingbourne admits his introduction to life in the Renault UK Clio Cup has been tougher than the Welshman initially expected, but says he feels progress towards the front of the field is being made with Team Cooksport.
Collingbourne joined the Clio Cup grid at the start of this season after two years racing in Ford Fiesta’s, entering with the new-for-2015 Cooksport outfit guided by reigning Clio Cup vice-champion and current BTCC racer Josh Cook.
Speaking to The Checkered Flag during the most recent Clio Cup race weekend at Oulton Park, Collingbourne said that while it’s been harder than expected to get his Clio to the front of the grid, he’s been enjoying every second of the challenge.
“It was a big change from the Fiestas, and it’s been a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be if I’m honest,” said Collingbourne. “You have to drive the Clio so differently to the Fiestas, you’ve got to be so smooth and gentle to get the power you need out the corners.
“I’ve ended up learning a lot more than I imagined, about how to approach the weekends and how to step my game up. I’m really enjoying being in such a good, competitive championship though. Everyone’s really close together which makes for great racing. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Collingbourne says he has settled in well at Team Cooksport, and believes the competition between him and his team-mates to be the teams number one, particular between himself and Charlie Ladell, is helping push them all up the grid.
“There’s a great atmosphere in the team and I’ve been really enjoying working with the engineer Ed and my mechanic Shane,” he enthused. “All the drivers work together in practice to get the best set ups for the cars for the weekend, as while we are all naturally different, we like the cars to feel the same.
“At Donington, me and Charlie were thousandths of a second apart, pushing each other around really well, then in qualifying at Oulton all four of us couldn’t be split. We all want to finish first though, that drives us on and being fastest in the team is a good feeling.”
Collingbourne has been in the thick of the top ten action throughout the opening four weekends of the season, with his best result of the season so far coming with seventh place at Donington Park as he continues to knock on the door of the top six.
While a desire is there to be in the mix for podium finishes as the season progresses, the 17 year old says his key focus is on developing as much as possible to ensure he can mount an outright title challenge in 2016.
“The guys at the front of the field, they’ve been driving Clios for two, three years or more, with teams that are hugely experienced in this series,” Collingbourne concluded. “For Josh [Cook], it took until his third season to be able to consistently get pole positions and race wins.
“So I know this is a learning year, but I’m always pushing to improve and move forwards. Ultimately at the end of this season, I want to be ready to go and challenge for the championship next year.”