A despondent Rob Austin was left scratching his head after promising pace in free practice did not translate into a strong qualifying performance at Rockingham.

The Rob Austin Racing boss, returning to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship grid with two cars after missing Knockhill, was seventh in second practice and just a few tenths shy of the top three.

However, he struggled in qualifying and ended up 12th, lapping slightly slower than in the earlier session and a further half a second behind the leader, and told theCheckeredFlag.co.uk set-up issues cost him dearly.

“It’s just simple as going the wrong way on set-up,” he explained. “We put on new tyres and it didn’t do what we thought it would. I think we know [what we need to do to fix it] but I’m not 100 per cent.

“At the moment trying to get the power down in the long corners is taking a lot of time and in rear-wheel drive it’s not right.”

The fan favourite, back racing alongside Will Bratt, has the roof of his Audi decorated with the pictures of his supporters who paid £35 to help get the team to Rockingham – and is determined to move forward tomorrow after “letting them down” with the poor qualifying result.

“I’m always pleased to be on the circuit, and it’s by fan power, which is really nice. But we’ve let them all down really.

“I’m certain we can move up substantially as long as we have got it right for tomorrow. Tyre degradation we should have an advantage, and even if it’s by sheer commitment and bravery [we will move forward].”

Meanwhile Bratt, appearing once more for the RAR outfit, fared even worse, finishing down in 18th after amassing just seven laps before mechanical problems ended his day early – problems which Austin says could keep him out of action tomorrow as well.

“We thought it’s an alternator – it isn’t – and we’re on the case,” he explained.” I think it might have done some deeper damage. We’ll have to see [if it will keep him off the grid tomorrow].