Rob Collard says West Surrey Racing have “upped their game” further after a strong start for Team BMW in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season opener at Brands Hatch.
A championship contender in 2016, Collard added his first podium of the new season in the second of three hectic races in Kent alongside finishes of sixth and seventh.
Now a Manufacturer entry for the first time since 1996, BMW also picked up their first victory of the season in the hands of Andrew Jordan in race three. The Pirtek Racing man fended off a spirited charge from team-mate Colin Turkington, on a weekend that left Collard singing praise of the updated 125i M-Sport.
“To start with three strong finishes is brilliant”, Collard told The Checkered Flag. “I can’t wait for Donington now.
“I think the car has got more potential which we need to work on. We’ve got a lot to look forward to this year. Brands Hatch is a bit of a BMW track but we’ve got a great summer ahead of us.
“Race three was a bit of an own goal because we opted for the softer tyre and had 66 kilos in the car. I knew that in the last 10 or 12 laps I was starting to struggle; Colin had a lot more pace behind me and I felt I should let him through – I had no problem with that.”
In the 18th year of his BTCC career, Collard said that WSR have made big strides over the winter period, praising the performance of the team’s new B48 engine after a reliable and competitive weekend.
“WSR have upped their game. You always wonder if it can get better and they still come away with a better car after winter”, he added.
“The new engine has been super reliable, but it also delivers the power excellently. It was a bit of a late programme, but it was well worth the investment.
“Last year we were really struggling with power, so this has made us that bit more competitive. We’ve closed that gap so now the BMW chassis can carry that extra cornering speed. The problem is that you still don’t know which tracks are going to suit the FWD cars significantly more. We’re hoping that this new engine will bring us closer at our weaker circuits.”
Collard said that the final race of the day saw himself and team-mate Turkington hindered by the softer tyre compound late in the race, but he was not deterred by the new-for-2017 compound.
“The new tyre is working well”, he added. “I was pleased with how well it was hanging on with the weight on board. To have a sixth-place finish with 66 kilos on a softer tyre – that’s a good result.”