Rotek Racing moves forwards ahead of Brands Hatch’s BTCC opener
Robb Holland and Rotek Racing took significant strides forwards in terms of pace and refining the setup of its Audi S3 saloon, the car running faultlessly throughout free practice and qualifying ahead of the opening three rounds of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit (Saturday 29 March).
The first BTCC free practice session of the weekend was held in bright and sunny conditions, with temperatures peaking at 17 degrees Celsius.
Rotek Racing continued fettling its brand new Audi S3 saloon during the build-up to the weekend having completed a trouble-free initial test on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit on Friday (20 March).
With limited pre-season testing miles under its belt, maximising the short free practice sessions during each race weekend is critical for the ambitious Rotek Racing team if it is to hone and develop its Audi S3 saloon.
The order of the day (Saturday 29 March) for Holland was to continue acclimatising to the Oakley Motorsports-liveried Audi and learn Brands Hatch’s 1.22mile Indy configuration.
Holland from Denver, Colorado gradually upped the pace and made sporadic appearances in the top ten until the latter half of FP1 when the established runners began recording representative lap times in preparation for qualifying.
The session was significantly delayed when the red flags flew in response to an incident on the pit wall. However, Holland pushed on at the restart until his times plateaued at 49.914s due to heavy and debilitating traffic.
The top 22 contenders were separated by less than a second in first practice and the field-spread was even narrower in FP2, which was also held in glorious springtime conditions.
Holland opened his account in second practice with a time of 54.374s to go 11th fastest but improved by more than four seconds to finally record a 50.054s while tentatively navigating unchartered territory and searching for the optimal racing line at Brands Hatch.
Qualifying was a frantic affair with 29 cars all sharing the short Indy circuit where space is always at a premium.
Remarkably, there was less than a second between the top 23 drivers as the flag fell on the session and, although Holland quickly got down to a 50.369s, he was unable to replicate the pace he showed earlier in the day and will start Round 1 from 28th on the grid.
“Free practice went fairly well for us because, while we had a few teething problems, they were only minor,” said Holland. “We didn’t get a huge amount of track time with having to come in and out of the pits, although we set a reasonably quick time that we thought was a solid base to improve on. Unfortunately, we got caught out by red flags in FP2 and the old tyres we ran prevented me from going any faster.
“Having said that, the car felt really good throughout. The hard work the Rotek Racing team has put in, building the car from scratch in just 45 days for it to run problem-free is incredible. We know we still have a pretty big hill to climb in order to get the car dialled-in but we have a really good base.”
Holland continued: “Qualifying was very interesting because everybody switched their lights on right from the off and it was quite a juggling act trying to decide who was actually on a flying lap and who wasn’t. We were hoping for better in all honesty and targeting a 49 flat. Everybody in the team is really psyched that the car ran without issues and, as far as the setup and handling goes, we’ll figure it out over time. We’re going to continue learning a lot this weekend and my times will continue to fall. The guys really deserve a rest and a beer tonight.”