Rory Collingbourne says he is targeting podium results by the end of his maiden Renault UK Clio Cup season after firmly establishing himself as a top ten runner in the first half of 2015.
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The 17-year-old Team Cooksport driver has gone into the mid-season break with seven top ten results from the ten rounds held so far – his best a seventh at Donington Park.

He’s eighth in the standings but clearly wants to get in on the scrap ahead of him for fifth currently being contested by Jack Mitchell, Jordan Stilp and Charles Ladell.

Collingbourne said: “They are all pretty much equal on points and although it’s quite a gap back to me I know strong results in the remaining eight races could suddenly bring me right onto them. To finish inside the top seven or six is definitely a goal of mine.

“But podiums are what I’m primarily after when we get going again and I believe that’s realistic. I’ve had a chance to weigh up the opposition a bit and I also feel now I’ve really got my head around the car. Now it’s time concentrate even harder and raise my game. It’s down to me.”

The fact Collingbourne feels that way indicates just how much he has matured since the opening event of the season at Brands Hatch where he admits he was lucky to avoid a potentially very nasty accident.

He added: “I only just missed the shunt between the two JamSport cars (of Dan Holland and Thomas Grundy). I chose the middle of the track and it was the right call.

“But Brands Hatch was a real eye-opener. I thought I’d walk in and… OK, the cars might be a bit lower profile and a bit more powerful than the Fiestas I’d raced before, but I under-estimated how hard it would be. It is massively competitive and that brings pressure. I went off in qualifying before the track was at its best and ended up at the back of the grid.

“What I also noticed immediately was just how many more people suddenly started following me on social media. You really begin to understand and appreciate the level you’re competing at.”

Donington would ultimately result in Collingbourne’s best finish so far in 2015, but it also served as another reminder of just how determined the opposition is in the Clio Cup.

He added: “I was only half a second or so off the pole time Josh (Cook, team principal) did there in 2014 when he won both races but it meant nothing this time around. Now it was more than a second off pole which just showed how much people had found in 12 months.

“Race one I went off avoiding Freddie Hunt and in race two I got muscled off track into the gravel momentarily but then it all came good in race three.

“Then it was on to Thruxton, my first time ever there, and I qualified sixth which I was very pleased with. Unfortunately at the Campbell-Cobb-Segrave complex on the first lap of race one there was a tangle between George Jackson and James Colburn ahead of me and I got badly delayed by the concertina effect. In race two it was Colburn again – he had a big moment at Church and I had to go off the track in avoidance. But at least I knew the performance was coming.

“At Oulton Park I never got a clear lap in qualifying but in race one had a mega scrap with (fellow Cooksport racers) Charlie Ladell and Jon Maybin. The main thing was not to have contact between us! In race two I was up eighth but then got a puncture and needed to make a pit stop.

“Then it was Croft and I stuck it in the gravel in Friday testing with a lock-up. I still ended up tenth in qualifying but felt it should have been quite a bit better – that track time I lost on the Friday had put me on the backfoot and it cost me. In race one I got trapped behind Grundy but I should perhaps have been ahead of him in the first place. Race two was much better – for two laps anyway. I was in sixth but got spun round by (Ant) Whorton-Eales shoving Brett Smith into me. The car was never right after that but the lap times were still reasonable which showed what might have been possible…”

Collingbourne has at least finished every race in the points even though he doesn’t always feel fortune has smiled on him.

He continued: “I would like to have had a bit more luck. In fact we’ve identified something quite spooky – whatever seems to happen to me in Clio Cup races seems to have happened to Josh in the touring car races, whether it’s contact at the same corner or a puncture!

“It’s fab being part of his team. He has all that knowledge from nearly winning the title last year to pass on to me and of course his way of working in the BTCC filters down. Sure it’s hard in the Clio Cup but that’s how I want it to be – it pushes you as an individual and I know there’s still a lot more to come from me in 2015…”