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Ricky Collard encouraged by ‘on-song’ Toyota at Donington Park

Ricky Collard emerged as Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s best-placed driver in the standings after the British Touring Car Championship season opener at Donington Park, where he achieved one of the strongest results of his tin-top career to-date.

Collard, who had been the quickest Speedworks driver in practice, was also the only Toyota driver to progress into the qualifying showdown on Saturday, after posting the tenth fastest time in the first part of the session, seven tenths from pole.

But a fuel line split in the engine denied the 26-year-old the opportunity to take part in Q2, leaving him to start from tenth for Sunday’s opening race.

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In mixed conditions early on Sunday, Collard progressed from tenth up to sixth at the start and, after briefly running in fifth, he took the chequered flag in sixth after a mid-race scrap with Team BMW’s Adam Morgan.

Race two saw Collard eliminated on the opening lap when, after electing to remain on slicks in increasingly wet conditions, he was hit on the opening lap, resulting in broken front-left suspension on his Corolla.

From a lowly 26th on the grid for the final race, Collard was able to make up 12 places to finish in 14th and bag a couple more points, leaving him 15th in the drivers’ championship standings and the best-placed driver for the team leaving Donington Park.

“From the moment we rolled out on-track, we had strong pace,” said Collard. “The Corolla was really on-song, and after our form in free practice, we knew we had the potential in qualifying to get through to the top ten shootout.

“We obviously managed to achieve that and everything was working well, so to then not be able to capitalise due to the fuel line fire was a massive shame.

“I felt we deserved to at least have a crack at it after all the hard work that everybody had put in.

“That left us out-of-position on the grid for race one, but we scored some good points in sixth.

“We unfortunately made the wrong tyre choice for race two, and I got hit multiple times on the opening lap, which resulted in a front-left component failure.

“The Speedworks guys did a fantastic job to get the car back out again for race three and I got a blinding start, and managed to make up 12 places in total to grab a couple more points.”

Team Principal Christian Dick admitted that the weekend hadn’t delivered the results the newly-expanded three-car team had hoped for, with Collard as the best-ranked driver overall, one place ahead of Rory Butcher and three ahead of George Gamble.

“I think you could describe that as a challenging weekend for everybody, with constantly changing weather that made it a bit of a guessing game in terms of tactics and set-up,” said Dick.

“In the circumstances, while we evidently didn’t achieve the results we had been targeting, to come away with seven points finishes out of a possible nine was solid and gives us something to build upon moving forward, and there was a lot of learning and progress made along the way.

“Ricky was unfortunately affected by the inevitable teething troubles that come with running a new engine, but his pace was clear to see and he drove very well in race one for a top six result.”

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