Rob Smith endured his most trying outing of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup season at Thruxton in Hampshire over the weekend, 3rd/4th May, with tyre degradation troubles in race trim not enabling the Telford driver to capitalise on a strong qualifying performance.
Buoyed by a positive test at Oulton Park during the build-up to the third race meeting of the season, the Team Pyro racer had high hopes for a return to the podium form he produced at Brands Hatch in March – and after qualifying fourth fastest for round five, that positivity looked well placed.
Going straight into the grid-determining session on Saturday with no pre-event practice, 21-year-old Rob was happy to be up-to-speed immediately with a second row start for race one. His second fastest lap, meanwhile, placed him seventh on the grid for race two.
With a new clutch in his Evergreen Tyres, Grouptyre UK, BMTR and Exhausts Tyres and Batteries supported Clio, the start to round five didn’t go to plan and an unfortunate stall left the Loughborough University student a long way down on the pack.
Managing to work his way onto the tail of the cars ahead, despite suffering from significant understeer, Rob broke into the top 10 prior to a Safety Car period at two thirds distance and after the re-start he challenged Ant Whorton-Eales for ninth. Grabbing the place on lap 11 he then ended the race in eighth when Paul Rivett retired with a throttle sensor problem.
“We were quick with a qualifying set-up on the car on Saturday, I was really happy with fourth and seventh for the two grids and looking forward to the races”, said Rob, “I seem to struggle more than my team-mates with tyre degradation though, the set-up I like seems to create a lot of understeer and at a track like Thruxton that just destroys the tyres.”
In round six Rob suffered with understeer once more and ended the race in 11th position. He added: “It’s been a tough weekend, the Pyro guys did a great job as always but I’ve just struggled in the races. I made a couple of bad starts, which didn’t help matters, and in a championship as competitive as Clios it’s hard to recover from that.”
Rounds seven and eight of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup will take place five weeks from now, over the weekend 7th/8th June, at Oulton Park International Circuit in Cheshire.