After a visit to the longest circuit on the British Touring Car Championship schedule, Snetterton 300 in Norfolk, the eBay Motors Team now heads for one of the shortest this weekend with the seventh round of the 2013 season at Knockhill. The 1.271 mile circuit is beaten only by Brands Hatch Indy in terms of shortest lap of the year.
It marks the series’ annual trip to Scotland, with the eBay Motors squad hoping to replicate the kind of results it enjoyed a year ago. Rob Collard and then team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole took a pair of 1-2 finishes on one of the team’s strongest weekends of the year.
This time around Collard, along with team-mates Colin Turkington and Nick Foster, will be tackling Knockhill for the first time with the all-new NGTC-spec BMW 125i M-Sport, which is already a three-time winner in the series. Turkington took victory in race three at Donington Park and won race one and two at Croft.
With Knockhill being a circuit where rear-wheel drive cars have gone well in the past, hopes are high of a strong weekend with Nick Foster – who has five top ten finishes in six starts at the Fife venue – giving a drivers eye view into what to expect.
“Knockhill is a challenging circuit, but also one that is really enjoyable to drive,” he said. “When the lap starts, you have to keep to the left hand side of the circuit and are in sixth gear coming into turn one, where the track just drops away from you. You drop down a gear and the entry is very fast into the right-hander at the top of SEAT Curves. All you can see is the apex of the corner but you can’t think about what might be waiting for you when you head down the hill; you just have to push hard.
“The car goes light and slides across the circuit as you head through the right-hander and you run across the kerbs, then it’s down three gears for Scotsman. Out of there you are up to third for Butchers, which is quite a violent corner as the car will bottom out and hit the tarmac in the dip before you go into the John R Weir chicane.
“You hit the rev limiter and grab fourth for the chicane which is completely blind. You can’t see where you are going and have to make sure you position the car correctly and are careful with the kerbs as you can easily unsettle the car and make a mistake. When you’re in traffic it can be particularly hard to get the right line but you soon learn where you need to position the car to get the corner right.”
“On the exit you have to let the car settle in order to get on the power and are up to fifth on the run to Carlube before a heavy brake. You drop down a gear for the corner and it’s vital to get the exit right because of the back straight that follows. You have to be careful about the kerb on the inside as that can unsettle the car and cost you speed onto the straight, while running wide will have the same effect if you put a wheel in the gravel.”
“It really is a critical corner as any loss of speed will see you come under attack from the car behind. You get up to sixth on the run to the hairpin and if you are under pressure you have to keep the car to the right hand side of the circuit to defend.
“The circuit is bumpy going in the braking zone which provides an extra challenge and the rear end will go light over the bumps. However, the fact that the corner is uphill means you can brake late and you need a good exit again for the run up to the finish line.
“Last year was a bit of a missed opportunity for me at Knockhill as issues in qualifying put me on the back foot, but the BMW should be strong despite the boost levels we are running and my aim is to bring home three top ten finishes from race day.”
Three top ten finishes from race day would replicate his results in 2012 where he finished eighth, fifth and seventh.
In terms of the championship, Turkington is the highest placed eBay Motors Team driver, currently lying in fourth place – 37 points behind championship leader Matt Neal. Foster is 13th with 69 points while Collardis 15th with 59 points.