BRANDS HATCH - ROUND 1 - RACE REPORT
Turkington and Collard top Independents Trophy for Team RAC
09 APR 06: BRANDS HATCH, KENT, UK
Before the 2006 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car season started there was much speculation that this was going to be an action-packed season. The first rounds at Brands Hatch didn't disappoint the bumper crowd and Team RAC supporters as they surrounded the natural amphitheatre.
The inaugural race for Team RAC saw both Colin Turkington and Rob Collard bring the MG ZS' home in the top ten with only an aggressive move by Matt Neal (Team Halfords) on Colin during the penultimate lap denying the Irishman his first podium finish of the season. Part-time works SEAT driver James Thompson took the first win of the day. Feeling disappointed at losing his podium place Colin said: "I knew after qualifying that I was on for a podium finish. I'm not sure whether Matt locked up going in into Clearways. It was a hefty impact, as I couldn't actually get out of the car when I got back to the garage. We've certainly got the pace and its looking good for the second race." Colin also secured the fastest Independents' lap with a time of 49.201s averaging 89mph.
Rob Collard battled in midfield unable to find the ultimate set-up to give the best performance from his car. Having qualified ninth for the race he improved his position for race two of the day taking the chequered flag to finish 7th.
18kgs of success ballast didn't hamper Colin Turkington's MG ZS as he made a good start passing both Chilton (Tom) and Neal (Matt) taking up second place behind SEAT's James Thompson. Some great defensive driving by Colin ensured that he secured an Independents' win and second place finish overall. On securing his first podium finish of the season Colin said: "After the first race I'm really please to have got second place." With the new reversed grid rule coming into play, whereby the winner of race two draws a random number between six and ten, Colin starts race three from sixth on the grid. He commented: "You know you can win races from tenth on the grid so I'm just going to go for it."
With the handling of Rob Collard's MG ZS' improving, he again drove a solid race securing a 6th place finish. Taking advantage of the reversed grid, promoting him to a second place start for the final race of the day, Rob certainly felt like he was making progress. He said: "I've struggled a little bit all weekend but we've been making some set-up changes between races which now appear to be working. I'm still experiencing an imbalance but we're hopeful of solving this for the next race."
James Thompson (SEAT) took the win with Matt Neal (Team Halfords) taking the last step of the podium.
The podium turned a distinct shade of orange as Rob Collard and Colin Turkington took second and third place respectively in the final BTCC race of the day. Rob battled to secure his place before contact with Matt Neal resulted in the race being red flagged on lap 20.
On securing second place Rob said: "It's a fantastic result for the team and reward for all the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes. It took a while to get the car working to my liking but it came good in the final race and has given me more confidence. The incident with Matt (Neal) was very unfortunate. He made a very aggressive move on me heading into Clearways and I know it may look like retaliation but that's not the case. I followed him into Paddock and he just braked too early and unfortunately I made contact. It completely caught me by surprise."
Colin Turkington is riding high currently placed second in the Drivers Championship and leading the Independents Trophy. Stepping onto the podium twice in one day, he commented: "It's fantastic to be on the podium again. My car is running faultlessly and it just feels better and better each time. I can't wait for Mondello."
Keeping his promise that there was more to come from the MG ZS, team principal Dick Bennetts said: "I'm very pleased for everyone. The guys at WSR have worked incredibly hard on the cars and have done a great job. It's a very good way for Team RAC to open their account. Rob and Colin have done a great job."
With great trackside support from RAC, Simon Machell, chief executive, NUI (Norwich Union Insurance) was first to congratulate the team. On his maiden BTCC event he said: "This outstanding team performance shows it really is all about 'the people behind people behind the wheel'. RAC has seen a great start to the season, all congratulations to Colin and Rob."
The next BTCC meeting takes place at Mondello Park, 22/23 April.
Jason Hughes in the Kartworld Racing MG ZS finished:
Race 1 - 9th
Race 2 - 11th
Race 3 - 9th