Evesham's Rob Austin hoping to lift ‘curse’ after return to top six place - The Evesham Observer

Evesham's Rob Austin hoping to lift ‘curse’ after return to top six place

Evesham Editorial 3rd Aug, 2018   0

ROB AUSTIN rued his misfortune despite making a welcome, and long-awaited, return to the top six at a rainy Snetterton 300 Circuit on Sunday.

The second half of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship got off to a strong start for the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing team, with Evesham racer Austin taking sixth place in a rain-affected opening race on Sunday morning in the No.11 Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Although contact from a rival early in race two, round 17, led to a highly frustrating retirement with damage, Austin hit back impressively in the special 60th anniversary ‘Diamond Double’ race – round 18 – to finish in 13th position from 25th on the grid, despite a damaged radiator and limited power.

“I am absolutely convinced we are cursed!” said Austin, whose car looked resplendent with a special ‘Alfa Romeo’ chrome red roof designed to celebrate the BTCC’s 60th birthday, “We had a great car again and were actually a little disappointed to only qualify P7 for the first race.

“We were into the unknown with the wet conditions, the car is set up so differently to the last time we ran in the wet and we weren’t sure how it would perform. Matt, our engineer, did a great job and although we didn’t have the pace to hang on to fifth, finishing sixth was a decent result.”

He added: “I have never experienced a run of bad fortune like this in my 28 years of racing and it’s blowing my mind at the moment, but we clearly have a fast, solid car in the DUO Motorsport with HMS Alfa Romeo and we won’t give up! Our fortune will change, and when it does we are ready!”

In qualifying for round 16, Austin set a best lap of one minute 56.096 seconds to secure seventh on the grid for race one.

But the standalone qualifying session for the ‘Diamond Double’ race didn’t go to plan when the turbo pipe on Austin’s car became detached. After repairs, he had to settle for the 25th best time.

Rain returned ahead of Sunday’s action, round 16 beginning on a very wet circuit, and Austin made a good launch from seventh. Although leapfrogged by the rear-wheel drive Subaru of Ashley Sutton, Austin tucked into eighth and then leapt into sixth on the second tour when two rivals hit trouble.

Under some pressure from Adam Morgan (Mercedes) as the laps ticked by, Austin kept his rival at bay with some excellent driving and stayed sixth to the flag.

Thanks to his strong race one showing, Austin lined-up on the third row of the grid for the wet-but-drying round 17 and an awesome launch from sixth place enabled him to rocket into third into Riches. Edged back to fifth by the time the leaders departed the infield, Austin maintained position but on lap three contact at the Bomb Hole led to a broken rear tow-link and a bitterly disappointing retirement to the pits.

With a mountain to climb in the round 18 ‘Diamond Double’ race from 25th on the grid, Austin had another terrific getaway and moved up into the top 15 before the end of the lap on the now almost fully dry track.

Driving superbly, the Alfa racer moved up into 13th place before a one lap Safety Car period and when the action resumed on the fifth tour he swiftly claimed 12th position. By lap eight, rain had started to return and the drivers had to contend with increasingly tricky conditions.

Into lap nine, Austin held an elevated 11th place but his challenge took a hit when a stone pierced the Alfa’s radiator and the car began to lose pace with an overheating engine.

On lap 16, the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing car was also struck by Daniel Lloyd’s Honda Civic at the chicane with a hefty whack to the left-hand side.

Managing to keep everything pointing in the right direction, Austin eventually finished in 13th spot after another bruising encounter.

“Our curse hit us again in race two,” said Austin. “We had a great start and got up to third, although in the damp conditions on slick tyres we struggled to get the tyre temperature up as quickly as some of those around us.

“I had a good, clean race with [Sam] Tordoff but as we battled the car behind got close enough to smash my rear wheel and break my suspension. It’s hard to comprehend how many times this has happened this year with no reprimands handed out by TOCA.

“In the ‘Diamond Double’ race the curse was in full swing again! The first half of the race went well and with a mega start, and clearly a very strong car, I think P6 would have been achievable. Sadly, a car in front kicked up a stone and put a hole in the radiator. From then on, the engine got hotter and hotter and, as a result, we got slower and slower. In the end it was a relief to hang on to P13.”

The BTCC is back in action on August 11-12 for rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the season, at Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit in Northamptonshire.

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