4/5/2016 0 Comments
Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent will be the venue for the second event of the MINI Challenge season this coming weekend, 7th/8th May, where front-running competitor Rob Smith is aiming to mount a major push for his first podium finish driving for the MINI UK VIP Customer Team.
Running on the support package to the British round of the prestigious Blancpain Sprint Cup a few days from now, the all-action MINIs return to a track where the Evergreen Tyres, GroupTyre and BMTR supported racer secured two rostrum results during the corresponding race meeting in 2015.
Just over a week ago at Donington Park National Circuit in the championship-opening race meeting, the Telford driver emerged fifth in the standings with a best finish of fourth – frustratingly missing out on much-deserved silverware as a result of problems with straight-line speed.
Since then, the Excelr8 Motorsport squad – the engineering strength behind the MINI UK team – has worked to rectify the issue with Rob’s MINI F56 so the 23-year-old is hopeful he will be able to battle for a welcome return to the podium.
“Donington was pretty frustrating in the end, but we know we had the capability to be fighting for the podium if it hadn’t been for the problem”, said Rob, “The team is confident they’ve got to the bottom of the issue, so we’re all looking forward to being able to attack at Brands Hatch – we went well there last year and I’m looking forward to running on the GP track again.”
Rob’s start to the season last time out was compromised from the outset with issues in testing but, despite that, he qualified within only 0.1 seconds of the front row of the grid for round one. With a sensational start and showing superb pace on cold tyres, he rocketed into the lead from sixth on the grid but the encounter was swiftly red flagged. In the re-started race, he finished in fourth place.
Round two the following day was also red flagged on the first lap after a multi-car incident and the delay in clearing away the stricken MINIs resulted in the race being moved to later in the timetable – Rob finishing in ninth as his performance was hindered by the lack of straight-line speed. As a consequence of the scheduling delays, the planned third round was postponed.
Heading into the second event of 2016, all involved are hoping for a much more straightforward weekend at Brands Hatch where the MINI Challenge is known to provide outstanding racing on the legendary GP track.
“Hopefully we can have two really strong races at Brands without any dramas”, added Rob, “It’s a proper drivers track, you have to have a lot of commitment to be fast, and it’s going to be great racing as part of the Blancpain weekend as we should have a good crowd. It’s guaranteed to be very competitive again.”
Qualifying is scheduled to get underway at 10.50 on Saturday, 7th May, with the first race of the weekend starting at 15.15. On Sunday, 8th May, race two will commence at 15.20.