ONE of the world’s great motor racing circuits – Brands Hatch Grand Prix – will bring the curtain down on Pershore-based team Rob Austin Racing’s Dunlop British Touring Car Championship season this weekend and, just like their 29 rivals, team-mates Rob Austin and Hunter Abbott will be looking to go out on a high in the final three races of 2014.
The year has been something of a rollercoaster ride in terms of fortunes for team principal Austin of Evesham, whose squad prepares both his Exocet Racing Audi and the similar AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing machine driven by Abbott, of Maidenhead.
Highlights have included a memorable race win for Austin at Rockingham where he and Abbott also both finished a race inside the top ten.
There have been a further three outright podium finishes for Austin – one at Oulton Park and two at Knockhill – but it is reckoned a variety of mechanical problems and incidents on track have cost him at least 70 points during the course of the season.
These points may well have seen him challenging for a top eight place in one of the world’s most competitive motor racing championships.
Austin, who will go into the Brands Hatch finale lying 12th in the standings, said: “While I love the Brands GP track for all its history and from a pure driving pleasure point of view, for some reason I’ve never fully clicked with it.
“Even when I was on course to win an historic F1 race there, my Surtees’ engine burst an oil line and I got beaten to the line by my grid girl Sophie Coombs’ father in his Tyrrell!
“Every driver, myself included, wants to end their season on a high with the best results possible going into the long winter break, but that is much harder to achieve at this event simply because it is the grand finale.
“Drivers traditionally use it as an excuse to settle any scores or just go plain crazy with a win or bust mentality, or both! It’s the most unpredictable event on the calendar so apart from being on the pace it’s doubly important to try and make sure you are in the right place at the right time to capitalise when it goes wrong for other people around you. And it will go wrong for people…”
The Brands Hatch event will see either Colin Turkington or Jason Plato become British Touring Car champion.
Austin added: “Everyone seems to think Colin has it in the bag but that can easily change. This is the BTCC after all and anything could happen, especially with the Brands GP track layout being more favourable for front-wheel-drive cars.
“If I find myself battling with either Colin or Jason and the title is still up for grabs then both will get my total respect. Treat others as you wish to be treated and certainly in their position I wouldn’t want anyone anywhere near me.”
Abbott commented: “I’m looking forward to Brands GP – it’s my favourite circuit in the UK – a proper old school circuit which gives you such a good feeling when you’re on the limit.
“I’ve got some good memories from 2008 when I took a win in a one-off appearance in the Ginetta Supercup. Rob’s dad Richard got stuck at the airport and couldn’t make it for qualifying so I stepped into his G50 without any practice, took pole position and a win. A great weekend!
“As for the title showdown between Colin and Jason, I just really hope it’s a clean, fair battle and doesn’t end in tears.”