Rob Smith is relishing the prospect of racing his AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup car at Rockingham for the first time next weekend, 22nd/23rd September when the all-action saloon car category resumes for rounds 11 and 12 of the championship.
During the five weeks since the previous event at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk, the 20-year-old has upped his training regime as he focuses on a strong late-season push at the wheel of his Total Control Racing prepared 2.0-litre Clio.
Telford-based Rob, who is backed by Goodride Performance Tyres and Grouptyre, will receive extra commercial support for the Rockingham races from B.A.B Distribution – the wholesale supply arm of long established specialist B.A Bush Tyres. As the local Grouptyre member covering Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, the company has no less than eight outlets across the two counties.
Going into the weekend, the Loughborough University Automotive Materials student is less than 30 points outside the top 12 in the championship in his maiden season of ‘tin-top’ racing and is certain the fast sections of Rockingham’s 1.94-mile International Sportscar Circuit will play to his strengths.
“We’ve had another big break since the last round at Snetterton”, said Rob, “I think it’s nice to have a flow and to get the momentum going rather than being a stop-start season, although the gap has been good as I’ve been training like crazy at the gym and doing loads of cycling. It's also given me lots of time to get things straight in my head and go into the weekend with a new approach and mindset.
“I think Rockingham might suit me better than some of the other circuits we’ve visited so far this year, there’s quite a lot of fast stuff there and I do prefer high-speed corners and quick bits rather than hairpins and twists. There is a bit of a mix of the two at Rockingham but the faster parts do form a big chunk of the lap so I’m looking forward to it.”
The Shropshire racer’s best result of the season so far is an excellent eighth place from the second round at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit and although experiencing a fair dose of misfortune along the way, a consistently strong weekend at Oulton Park in June proved – if qualifying goes well – there is no doubt Rob’s race pace can deliver the required results.
“I’m reverting a bit to my original approach from the start of the year, just drive the car by feel and do it by instinct rather than being too reliant on the data”, he added, “That’s obviously an important part of things but I think we’ve focused on that a bit too much as the season has gone on. As ever the biggest part of the weekend will be qualifying, if we nail that I know we can do well in the races.”
Pre-event testing will take place next Friday, 21st September, ahead of qualifying which will follow on Saturday, 22nd September, at 11.30. Both races will be contested on Sunday, 23rd September, with round 11 beginning the day’s action at 10.00 and round 12, which will be screened live on ITV4, in High Definition on ITV4 HD and online at the www.itv.com/btcc website, following at 15.10.