Rob Collard was left to bemoan what could have been, after a brace of incidents at Oulton Park left him 26 points adrift in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title fight.
The BMW driver was turned around by the Honda Civic Type-R of Jeff Smith on lap one of the opening race at Island hairpin, an incident that saw the Eurotech Racing man slapped with a reprimand and two penalty points.
A fine recovery in race two put him inside the top sixth briefly, but a rear puncture picked up in a hard-fought dice with Josh Cook’s Triple Eight MG6 forced him into a spin at Cascades, resulting in a second charge through the field to sixth from 25th on the grid in the final encounter.
Speaking to The Checkered Flag after an incident-packed weekend, Collard was left disgruntled with the initial route of his troubles.
“[Smith] was miles behind coming in when we braked for the hairpin and just didn’t brake”, Collard said. “It ruined race one for me and then it wrecked the rest of the weekend really.
“I pushed really hard to come through in race two. You get so much momentum then, so I didn’t really know where I was at that point while just trying to get through into the top eight at least.
“I put a move on Josh Cook coming down the straight and was pinned towards the pit wall. We may have picked up a puncture heading into turn one over some debris, because the car just went out of control and wide onto the grass.
“It’s frustrating, because in race three we came through again. I didn’t think we could do that kind of drive again, but I did so I was very pleased.”
The brace of disappointing results in Cheshire were two of just three occasions in 12 races this season that the West Surrey Racing driver has failed to finish outside the top six.
Collard did take pride from his successful on-track battles during the day however, saying: “The only thing I can take from the weekend is that I’ve proved to everybody that, if you grow a pair of balls, you can overtake around here! Oulton Park is a great track for overtaking; they say it’s one that you can’t overtake at, but I hope I’ve proved them wrong.
“None of those moves are easy. You’re overtaking guys like Matt Neal and Colin Turkington – they’re not going to make it easy for you. I’d actually rather race with somebody like them, because you know what you’re going to get. They’ll be hard, but they’ll be fair.”
Collard still emerged from the dramas of Oulton Park lying third in the championship, albeit 26 points adrift of series leader and team-mate Sam Tordoff as WSR head to Croft circuit, where they claimed a hat-trick of wins 12 months ago.
“I’m still third in the championship and not that far off the lead in terms of points, so it’s still all to play for.”