|Evesham racer Rob Austin says his target for this coming weekend’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship visit to Croft Circuit is to be the top front-wheel drive competitor, at a track which will undoubtedly favour the rear-wheel drive competition.
Heading to North Yorkshire for rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the season, which will be contested this Sunday, 24th June, the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing driver is carrying realistic expectations into the fifth event of 2018.
Last time out at Oulton Park in Cheshire just over a week ago, Austin was on course to steer his No.11 Alfa Romeo Giulietta to a richly deserved season-best second place in the third of the event’s races, until differential failure with just a few laps to go triggered a bitterly disappointing retirement.
While the whole team was crestfallen with the second rostrum of the season so near yet so far, the increasing competitiveness of the Swindon squad’s new car – which, remember, is still very much in development – means there is a lot of positivity in the air as the BTCC reaches its halfway point.
That said, with Croft tailor-made for the rear-wheel drive cars, such as the championship leading BMW of Colin Turkington, Austin believes a podium challenge is going to be extremely difficult for the Alfa Romeo unless lady luck plays a role.
With that in mind, the BTCC ace’s main focus is to try and be the quickest of the front-wheel drive entries and then let the rest of the weekend take care of itself. Whatever happens, Austin will be giving 100% commitment as he always does.
“Oulton Park was a rear-wheel drive circuit which saw the BMWs get two out of three wins and a podium lock-out in race three, but Croft hands the rear-wheel drive cars their biggest advantage of the season by far”, explained the DUO, Northgate and Close Brothers backed driver.
“With that in mind you have to be realistic and alter your expectations and, unfortunately, that means we are extremely unlikely to be challenging for a podium in race one. Once the success ballast comes into play, and with the reverse grid for race three combined with some luck, chances might open up but I think our realistic target has to be to aim to be the top front-wheel drive car.”
After taking a remarkable and memorable podium on the opening weekend of the season at Brands Hatch, when the newly constructed Alfa Romeo had only experienced three days of running, Austin freely acknowledges the direction of travel with set-up thereafter went the wrong way.
For Oulton Park, though, everything was back on track thanks to tremendous hard work behind the scenes and Austin is sure the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing Giulietta will be a force to be reckoned with as the remainder of the season unfolds.
“We really turned a corner with the car at Oulton and it felt great, there’s still more to come but we took a big step in the right direction and are absolutely on the right track now – I’m very excited for the rest of the season”, he added.
“I’ve said all along that the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing boys have built an incredible car and once we hook it up it’ll be a winner. We are getting very close to hooking it up now, our tails are in the air and we are hungry for silverware!”
Opening free practice at Croft will get underway at 09.30 on Saturday, 23rd June, with session two following at 12.00 and qualifying – which will be streamed live online at the www.itv.com/btcc website – getting underway at 15.20.
On Sunday, 24th June, race one will begin at 12.05, race two is scheduled for 14.45 and race three will commence at 17.25. All three encounters, as ever, will be streamed online and also broadcast live across the UK on ITV4.
2018 BTCC Driver Standings (after Rd12)
17th Rob Austin, 50pts
2018 BTCC Independents Driver Standings (after Rd12)
6th Rob Austin, 94pts
2018 BTCC Team Standings (after Rd12)
13th DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing, 49pts
2018 BTCC Independents Team Standings (after Rd12)
7th DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing, 102pts