A Unique Challenge
The eBay Motors team will face up a unique challenge when it heads to the Rockingham circuit in Corby for the next round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season.
Of the nine circuits that host a round of the BTCC - with the series visiting Brands Hatch twice each season – Rockingham is the only one that runs in an anti-clockwise direction, meaning Rob Collard, Tom Onslow-Cole and Nick Foster will have to get used to a weekend of going the ‘wrong way’ compared to normal when they hit the track.
“I wouldn’t say that Rockingham is my favourite circuit, but it is certainly one that I enjoy driving,” Rob explains. “It’s the only circuit we got to that is left-handed and that is something that is different to every other circuit on the calendar.
“It’s hard to explain but after you’ve done 50 laps of Rockingham it is a weird sensation; it’s almost like the feeling you get when you’ve been on a fairground ride!”
All three eBay Motors men head to Rockingham buoyed by a strong weekend last time out at Knockhill, where they secured nine top ten finishes out of nine between them.
On his best weekend of the season to date, Rob secured two wins in Scotland to close the gap to the top four in the championship standings while he has also closed on in on rival Andrew Jordan in the race for the Independents’ crown.
Rob finished on the podium at Rockingham twelve months ago while still running with a normally-aspirated engine in his BMW 320si and now running under turbo power, he heads to the Northamptonshire circuit eager to make the most of his ever-improving car.
“I think we should be competitive again at Rockingham,” he says, “although we need to see what the boost levels are for the weekend before we can say too much.
“After the performance we put in Knockhill, we have to aim to qualify and race strongly. If we can qualify inside the top six then we have to be aiming for the podium places at least in the first two races and even if we qualify outside the top six, we can still work our way towards the front and go for the podium in race three – as I did last season.”
To try and add to his podium tally however, Rob will need to deal with the various challenges that Rockingham provides…
“A lot of people talk about turn one at Rockingham but to be fair, it isn’t a corner that I would say challenging,” he says. “There are certainly more difficult corners when you get into the infield.
“Turn one is a long high-speed left hander and I’d be surprised if there is anyone on the grid who doesn’t go through there at full-throttle. If you get off-line then there is a chance you could end up in the wall, but there is a risk of an accident at any corner in the championship if you get onto the dirty part of the circuit.
“Dropping down off the oval at turn two can be tricky as there is a bit of a funnel effect as the cars drop down onto the infield and you will often get drivers who try and brake late to make up a position, but then leave their braking too late so you need to be careful.
“Once on the infield, you then have a really long left-hander which is taken at high-speed and is the most challenging corner on the circuit. You’ve got to be committed through there and the apex at Gracelands is blind as you head through the corner and head to the hairpin at Tarzan.
“That left-hander is a crucial part of the lap and the NGTC cars might have an advantage over us in terms of tyre wear. Although we have done a lot of work to improve our tyre wear since fitting the turbo, Rockingham will be much harder on our tyres than Knockhill was because the infield section – and especially that long left-hander – work the tyres a lot more.
“Last year we saw the front-wheel drive cars suffer with tyre wear as the races wore on while the BMW got stronger. We know the NGTC cars will be better on their tyres than the front-wheel drive S2000 cars were twelve months ago, and hopefully the work we have done means we won’t be hampered by tyre wear and will be able to take the fight to them.”