Rob Smith endured a very trying and challenging third event of the Renault UK Clio Cup season at Thruxton over the weekend, 4th/5th May, when a hefty, high-speed qualifying accident set the scene for two difficult races at the UK’s most fearsome track.
Salvaging a hard-earned best result of 12th place in round five from an otherwise luckless outing, the Telford racer has unfortunately slipped to 14th in the championship standings but remains within just 11 points of the coveted top 10 and is ninth the Graduate Cup class battle.
His weekend got off to a worrying start during Saturday morning’s qualifying session when a slight moment, while heading through the ultra-fast right-hander at Goodwood, unceremoniously pitched his Clio off the circuit backwards into the nearby marshal post with a heavy impact.
Initially thinking his Thruxton involvement was over there and then, the Total Control Racing mechanics worked wonders to ready the car in little more than three hours to ensure Rob was able to take up his place on the 10th row of the grid for round five.
Replacing the rear-axle, dampers and other related components, the left-rear quarter bodywork looked distinctly second hand but the Clio was suitably repaired to give the 20-year-old a chance to secure some much-needed points.
With a mountain to climb in the race from 19th on the grid, Rob gained a couple of positions on the opening lap and by the fourth tour he had broken into the top 15 with some good driving. Picking off more places into the second half of the encounter, the TCR man lapped within just 0.4 seconds of the race winner’s pace and was knocking on the door of the top 10 with three laps remaining.
Locked in an incredibly tight five car battle, the Goodride Performance Tyres, Grouptyre, BMTR, Group Tyre Wholesale and Exhaust Tyres and Batteries-supported racer was shuffled back to 12th with a lap to go and just missed out on re-taking 11th by a mere 0.2 seconds at the finish. In the Graduate Cup class tussle, Rob finished eighth.
“We had a good start, made some good places up on the first lap and I was quite confident we could try and break into the top 10 and get away from the pack behind”, explained the Loughborough University student, “Halfway through the race though the balance of the car went and that was it, I had to fight to try and keep the others behind me.
“All in all, race one wasn’t too bad – especially after thinking we were going home after qualifying following the accident. We just need to get back where we were at the start of the season, be up around the top 10 in qualifying and then we know the results will come.”
For Sunday’s sixth round, Rob again had to try and mount a major recovery from a lower than expected grid slot but a distinct lack of grip throughout the 12 lapper resulted in a vexing 17th place finish, 11th in the Graduate Cup.
There is now a five week break from Renault UK Clio Cup action with the seventh and eighth rounds of the 2013 season taking place on 8th/9th June at Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire.