Fantastic fifth for Evesham's Austin at Silverstone - The Evesham Observer

Fantastic fifth for Evesham's Austin at Silverstone

Evesham Editorial 17th Sep, 2018 Updated: 17th Sep, 2018   0

RENOWNED British Touring Car Championship racer Rob Austin produced one of his drives of the season during the final race of the weekend at Silverstone National Circuit on Sunday – only to just miss out on a deserved return to the outright podium.

During a dramatic, hard-fought and massively entertaining encounter, the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing driver was embroiled in the thick of the action at the front race-long in round 27 and almost came away with his and the team’s second rostrum of 2018.

Having to ultimately settle for fifth position from ninth on the grid after some real paint-trading action, the result did deliver a deserved Independents Trophy class podium for the Vale racer who goes into the season finale at Brands Hatch (September 30) with confidence boosted.

“The car felt mega this weekend from the moment we hit the track,” said Austin. “We started to pick up some understeer as the track rubbered up but, whereas in the past we have tweaked the set-up too much, too little or gone the wrong way to compensate, this time we hit the nail on the head and evolved the set-up just right for the circuit.

“Overall the team did a mega job all weekend and all the credit for our strong performances goes to them. My job is easy when the car is hooked up like that, so this step forward is all down to them and now we hope to be just as competitive at Brands Hatch.”

Team principal Simon Belcher added: “After the disappointment of getting taken out of contention with yet more needless damage in race one, Rob bounced back hard and did a great job with ninth and fifth in the other two races.

“Had we not been backed-up by (Tom) Ingram in race three, who was carrying maximum ballast, it would have been a podium. We have got the car in the window now and will be giving 100 per cent to end our first season with the Alfa Romeo on a high.”

After qualifying 13th and electing to run the ‘hard’ compound tyre for round 25, Austin made a good start and climbed into the top 12. On lap two, though, it all went awry for the No 11 Alfa Romeo when contact at Becketts from Mike Bushell pitched Austin off the track into Matt Neal’s Honda. The initial impact was so hard it shut down the car’s electrics so, after a full reset, Austin joined a lap down and finished 26th.

Due to post-race penalties for a couple of drivers, the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing driver started race two – round 26 – from an improved 24th on the grid and he put together a fantastic first lap to gain no fewer than five places.

Picking off rivals one by one, Austin sliced his way through the order superbly and by lap ten he had climbed into 14th. Continuing his terrific progress, the Worcestershire driver moved up into the top ten inside five more laps and then took ninth place on lap 16 from Tom Chilton’s Ford Focus.

With a gap of 2.4 seconds to close to the top eight over the final six laps, further gains looked unlikely but Austin gave it a great shot and at the chequered flag on lap 22 he was just 0.4 seconds behind championship leader Colin Turkington’s BMW. In terms of pace, the Alfa Romeo delivered a best time of 59.423 seconds which was a match for podium-finishing performance.

Beginning round 27 from ninth on the grid, with 15kg of ballast in the Alfa Romeo after the race two result, Austin again made a great start and battled hard with championship contenders Ingram and Turkington through Copse.

Unfortunately put wide at Becketts and dropping to seventh place as a result, he moved up into sixth and then fifth in quick succession over the next few laps and into the sixth tour he managed to nose alongside Ricky Collard’s BMW through Woodcote to take fourth place.

Charging on impressively, Austin was 1.2 seconds behind the podium battle but, when second-placed Jack Goff had to serve a drive-through penalty, the Alfa Romeo inherited third position. Following a safety car period between laps ten and 14, Austin made a good restart sandwiched between the ballast-laden Ingram and Turkington and pushed on in his quest for a season-best result.

With just fractions of a second separating the lead quartet, Austin searched for a way past Ingram time and again but, at the end of lap 20 through Woodcote, Turkington was able to squeeze alongside the Alfa. Edged back to fourth as a result, Austin was on the outside line for Copse and the loss of momentum and track position ultimately led to a slip down to sixth up to Becketts.

Determined to fight back, the almighty battle continued and Austin was able to depose both Chilton and Josh Cook with some very close-quarters action to reclaim fourth. Out of Luffield on the penultimate tour, though, Cook managed to get alongside and through Copse on the final lap Austin was edged to fifth – going on to take the flag only 0.3 seconds behind the Vauxhall.

Confirming the pace of both Austin and the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Evesham driver’s best lap of the race – 59.151 seconds – was a match for those of both Ingram and Turkington and 0.4 seconds quicker than race winner Aiden Moffat’s best effort.

Austin is 15th in the standings and seventh in the Independents heading to the season finale in Kent.

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