Rob Collard said that red flag interruptions during qualifying helped him recover a problematic session as he claimed fourth on the gird for the opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race at Knockhill.
The West Surrey Racing driver, currently sitting third in the Drivers’ Championship, spent much of the 30-minute qualifying session in the pits after smoke started to engulf the cockpit of the BMW 125i.
Although the cause of the issue remains unknown, repairs carried out over a brace of red flag stoppages enabled Collard to return the Fife circuit amid a flurry of changes to the top spot on a drying track.
“I just sensed that something was wrong with the car and the engine note didn’t sound right”, Collard told The Checkered Flag. “I could smell oil too, so I did a few laps and pitted, then the car engulfed itself with smoke.
“The boys did a heck of a job to get it back out. They turned it around so quickly and I had such a sinking feeling; if it hadn’t been for the red flags, I wouldn’t have had the chance.”
With 10 minutes on the clock, drivers chose to opt for slick tyres as the sun emerged in Scotland, Collard among those to briefly go to the top of the times with one minute remaining.
“I just knew I had to pull something out of the bag”, he added. “Everyone was on flying laps and eventually I got up to speed. On the last lap I went through turn one balls-out and aimed at the kerbs, launched it over and it was a good lap. I thought, ‘that must be a quick one’.
“The car is really good and I had a good feeling about it this morning. We hadn’t run new tyres and even then we were quick.”
Collard slipped to fourth on the grid come the session’s conclusion, but said that working with team-mate Colin Turkington alongside him will be key to the battle between Team BMW and Team BMR.
“The biggest two people I need to beat now are Ashley Sutton and Colin. Knowing Colin and the character he is, he leaves nothing to chance.
“I’d rather Colin dealt with Ashley and I can deal with Jason [Plato] as we’re a bit older and more experienced! Jason is an absolute master around here, but Knockhill is very good to me.”