In what became a shortened weekend for the MINI Challenge – JCW series, Rob Smith was disappointed by his Oulton Park performance, but hopes to bounce back next round.
Coming into the weekend, Smith was expected to be one of the front-runners after a strong campaign last year in which he picked up two victories and multiple podiums. He explained that much of testing was cut during winter and coming into the weekend did not find as much track time as he would have liked.
“We lost a lot of testing this year due to snow, our best chance to test was on Friday but there were a lot of red flags”, explained Smith, “This year we’ve got a choice of soft and stiff springs, but we were struggling to get the soft springs into the operating window and so we lost the session really. For qualifying we just decided to go with what we know, but without any real running it was always going to be an uphill battle.”
Smith qualified eleventh, but was under two seconds from polesitter Jordan Collard, proving the competitiveness of the field. His session had been hampered when George Sutton crashed his car bringing out the red flags and leaving Smith with eight minutes to recover.
“I think fifth would have been possible in qualifying without the flags in that session and then, when we saw the first race was going to be wet, I had pretty high hopes. The balance still wasn’t there, though, so it was a handful. The guys at the MINI UK VIP team did an amazing job to try to get to the bottom of it for race two, but we obviously didn’t have chance to try it.”
His car proved to be uncharacteristically difficult to drive on the Sunday, with the first race taking place in sodden conditions. He maintained his place for the opening laps, but a mistake dropped him further into the midfield.
With the rain getting worse, the second encounter, along with the remainder of the support events were all cut after the second British GT Championship round was forced to stop early.
“Race two was hopefully going to give us the answers we wanted with the chassis set-up, but it obviously didn’t happen!”, reflected the 25-year-old, “Every round counts this year, there aren’t any drop scores, so we need to get the car back to where it should be. We’ll be working hard between now and Rockingham to make sure we can start delivering the results we know we’re capable of.”
The next MINI JCW round will take place at Rockingham at the end of April.