Rob Austin made his mark during the opening round of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season at Brands Hatch last weekend, a fifth place finish in race one leaving the former race winner massively satisfied.
The Evesham racer put on a fine show for the fans in the season-opening race at the Kent circuit, fighting from an 11th place starting spot in qualifying – just 0.260s from pole – to claw his way into a top-five finishing position by the time the Exocet Racing Audi A4 took the flag, right on the tail of the works Yuasa Racing Hondas.
“It was hugely satisfying personally to be the one to take the fight to all those champions at the front of the grid in race 1″, said Austin.
“The support as ever has been awesome from all our sponsors, partners and brilliant fans who’ve joined the Rob Austin Racing Owners Club and got all their pictures on the roof of my Audi, ‘Sherman’. Donington Park is next up on Easter Sunday and a strong run there in all three races will really help keep the points leaders in sight.”
Following such a strong performance in race one, Austin’s weekend was however handed an unfortunate blow before the start of the second encounter, when a broken propshaft on his Audi halted his progress and left him out of contention.
A fine drive in race three from 28th on the grid saw Austin carve through the field and up into a points-paying result of 11th, passing reigning champion and overall championship leader Andrew Jordan during the recovery process.
“Race 2 was gutting”, added Austin, “particularly as it had a knock-on effect for race 3, but my mechanics did a great job as ever to put everything right and we have got some massive positives to take away from today.
“Race 3 was just relentless – I did 10 on the first lap alone and then it was all about keeping that going, closing on people, weighing them up and diving past. That stands as one of the best races I’ve ever done and a lot of it is down to how as a team we’ve engineered the car for this season.
“We’ve totally lived up to the hype of our pre-season testing pace and, against one of the most competitive grids in BTCC history, have matched the bigger factory teams for raw speed and really given them something to think about.”
Rookie team-mate Hunter Abbott took the season opener as a learning weekend for its majority, ending with a points finish in 15th place during the final encounter of Sunday, saying: “Now I’ve got my first three races out of the way I’m definitely targeting improvements for Donington.
“I’ve been encouraged by my pace first time out but there’s an awful lot to learn – how to get the best out of the car and tyres in qualifying, the different traits of the different drivers as well as the whole discipline of a touring car race.”
Austin meanwhile heads to Donington Park for the second BTCC meeting of the season on 19/20 April lying a solid 10th in the standings, just two points behind seventh-placed Adam Morgan.