It was Robb Holland’s intention to break into the top 20 and page one of the timesheets in the weekend’s third and final BTCC encounter.
Robb Holland and the Rotek Racing team had a highly positive baptism in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Brands Hatch, continually honing its new out of the box Audi S3 saloon and edging up onto page one of the timesheets (Sunday 30 March).
The Nurburgring and Silverstone-based team faced an uphill struggle to refine the setup of its S3 saloon and navigate its way around Kent’s world-renowned Brands Hatch Indy circuit during free practice and qualifying on Saturday (29 March).
From 28th on the Round 1 grid, Holland utilised a strong opening lap to climb to 25th as the field scrambled for track position, before mounting an attack on Chris Stockton in the Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet Cruze.
A well-timed lunge on the brakes for Paddock Hill Bend at the start of lap three saw Holland – the first American full-time BTCC entrant – snatch 24th place and go toe-to-toe with 17-year old Scot, Aiden Moffat.
The pair ran nose-to-tail while in the wheel tracks of Simon Belcher’s Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis until Moffat got the better of Holland under braking for Turn 1 on lap eight.
In a classic Brands Hatch Indy manoeuvre, Holland switched back to the inside as the brawling duo dipped down Paddock Hill Bend to hold the inside line for the Druids hairpin and retake the position.
The fight was eventually diluted when the pair had to heed blue flags, although Holland would rise to 22nd place at the expense of James Cole and Martin Depper, who collided at Druids.
“It was a slow start, but it’s nice that I’ve moved up in the field,” said Holland. “The car was actually very good after the team made some changes to the setup overnight and I ran my fastest lap time of the weekend in Round 1. The setup wasn’t quite right in free practice and qualifying but we have a solid base on which to build upon and the adjustments that were made before today’s opening race gave me a stronger front end, which significantly improved the car.
“We used the soft tyre in the first race and they fell straight off a cliff after the first five laps. I initially thought I’d be able to catch the back of the field but the grip fell away. Nevertheless, I had a good tussle with Aiden Moffat for a while."
Rotek experimented with several setup tweaks between Rounds 1 and 2 and subsequently took another positive step forwards in terms of raw performance.
Holland emerged unscathed from the traditionally incident-filled opening lap, gaining places as others faltered before once again going in pursuit of Belcher.
The Toyota racer resolutely stuck to the racing line in the early stages, but eventually made an unforced error through Surtees, opening the door to the appreciative Holland who proceeded to run at a solid and consistent pace in the low 50s that was more than four tenths of a second faster than his best qualifying time.
“The team made some suspension changes in the hope that they would work,” said Holland. “It’s always difficult to know what effect they’ll have, but you have to try something and we certainly went in the right direction. I had plenty of grip and ran at a very consistent pace. The problem is that it took a lot to displace Belcher and I lost contact with the main pack. Obviously we’re hoping for much more as the year progresses.”
It was Holland’s intention to break into the top 20 and page one of the timesheets in the weekend’s third and final BTCC encounter.
The Oakley Motorsports-backed driver entered the second lap in 20th and, despite being involved in a few minor scrapes while going toe-to-toe with the championship’s finest, he hit his target at the chequered flag.
“We did what we set out to achieve by finishing in the top 20,” said Holland. “Round 3 was pretty robust and Fabrizio Giovanardi gave me a big punt up the back, but it’s all good. He was a bit quicker at the time and it’s nice to cap off the weekend with a small scuffle. I was determined to make everybody work for their money and the scrapes tested the durability of the Audi S3. She’s a tough girl! It’s also useful to know how she reacts when you’re in direct combat, because you need the confidence to place the car wherever you want and I have to say she’s a very race-able car.
“We need to get in and do a few test days between the next few rounds so we can start making changes. The Rotek engineers now have a grip on what I want and need and where the weaknesses lie. We need a full day to work on that.”