ROB Austin Racing (RAR) achieved three points finishes and a best result of seventh in Sunday’s Dunlop British Touring Car Championship races at Croft, but the Pershore team will be grateful for the mid-season break after both its Exocet AlcoSense Audis – driven by Rob Austin and Hunter Abbott – again sustained considerable damage thanks to some rough on-track tactics from rivals.
After qualifying a season’s best seventh fastest on Saturday, Austin chose race one of three to run Dunlop’s soft compound tyre. While its performance – as expected on the abrasive Croft track surface – eventually fell away, it was a gamble that did pay dividends as it enabled him to set the race’s seventh fastest lap time early on to give him seventh on the starting grid for race two.
Holding on to the leading train of cars he held this position to the finish – briefly enjoying a fine battle with Gordon Shedden’s Honda for sixth – and for race three he would again start seventh.
“That’s when it all went wrong,” said Austin.
“I felt comfortable in that position early on and knew a lot of the others now had to run the soft tyre. The race I felt was going to come to us but then, for the second meeting in a row, people simply started driving into my car.
“The second hit up the back sent me into another car so we had to retire with heavy front and rear-end damage. It’s utterly needless. I had a perfectly good, hard but fair battle with Shedden – really enjoyable in fact – but then you get some drivers who just don’t seem to know how to do it. I’m not impressed really as you expect better at this level.”
Abbott’s car also suffered considerable rear-end damage in race three when he was nursing his soft compound tyres.
“It’s frustrating because it happened right near the end when I was on for a point,” said Abbott.
“Instead that point went to the driver who smashed into the back of me and then very nearly sent me into the barriers.
“However, there are some positives to take from the weekend. OK, race one I had a typical touring car rub with another driver and came off second best with a quick spin, but still fought back to only just finish just outside the points.
“More importantly I set the ninth fastest lap time to give me P9 for the race two grid – my best starting position in the BTCC.
“Race two was very hard fought with a group of us together. Andrew Jordan managed to squeeze past me which cost me momentum and a couple more were able to come by as well.
“Twelfth place in the end was still promising but without that one moment I felt I could have had P7. Again, the pace was good.”
Both RAR Audis have now been transported back to base in Pershore where they will undergo full rebuilds and further developments before the BTCC season resumes with its next three races at Snetterton in Norfolk on the weekend of August 8/9.