EVESHAM’S Dunlop British Touring Car Championship star Rob Austin twice crossed the line in the points in Sunday’s three championship races at the high-speed Thruxton circuit in Hampshire, but there was some tough luck along the way for both him and Berkshire team-mate Hunter Abbott.
Austin finished race one in 17th place but it could have been considerably higher had his Pershore-based team’s Exocet Racing Audi A4’s engine not lost turbo pressure from mid-distance onwards.
In race two he finished 14th after controlling a wild high-speed ride across the track when his and a rival’s car (Nick Foster’s BMW) clashed at the daunting Church Corner. A day’s best of 12th place followed in race three.
Later BTCC officials excluded Austin from race two’s results after reviewing his incident with Foster. The Worcestershire driver appealed the decision to the BTCC’s stewards but the exclusion was upheld.
Hunter, from Maidenhead, had been close behind Austin in race one aboard his AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing Audi A4, only to require a pit stop to have a damaged tyre replaced.
This dropped him to 24th – his starting grid position for race two in which he quickly made up places until his car’s engine lost power and he was forced to retire. From 28th on the grid for race three he came through to finish a solid 16th, just outside the points.
Austin commented: “It’s been a frustrating day, let’s put it that way. The talking point of course is what’s happened in race two.
“I believe I have a reputation for being a clean driver so I’m somewhat disappointed with the decision to exclude me. I genuinely don’t believe I was at fault for what happened but the officials have made their decision so I’ll just have to take it on the chin.
“I guess the key will be to qualify further up the grid in future where these sorts of situations don’t tend to happen.
“On saying that I’m quite encouraged by the pace we managed to get out of the car in race trim – to be knocking on the door of the top ten at what is our bogey circuit was a lot better than I expected so I’m really looking forward to the next two circuits at Oulton Park and Croft which should suit the Audi a lot better.”
Abbott said: “Hands up – race one was my fault. I locked up a tyre which flat spotted it so lost a heap of time in the pits. A shame as my pace when I rejoined was not bad at all. It should have been a points finish.
“Race two, it was just a very rare engine problem. One of those things and the championship’s engines technicans were very good in helping us put it right for later.
“Race three, I didn’t have a very good start but once into the groove I was able to catch people and pick them off. I made three places in the last two laps alone so it was a bit frustrating to finish just one place off the points but still a fairly positive end to the day.
“We have a bit of testing planned between now and Oulton Park (June 7/8) and like Rob I’m confident we will be quite a bit stronger than we have been at Thruxton.”