Rob Smith added two more podium finishes to his impressive season tally at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 9th/10th May, to conclude the second race meeting of the Power Maxed MINI Challenge campaign still in possession of the provisional championship lead.
Chalking up his fourth and fifth rostrum results of the year with second place in race one and third in race two, the Excelr8 Motorsport driver’s 100% podium record was unfortunately ended in round six though when he had to battle back through from a challenging start to finish in eighth position.
Continuing his front-running prowess from the season-opening event at Donington Park two weeks ago, the Telford 22-year-old qualified second fastest for round four although was confident he could have been on pole position were it not for a Safety Car intervention in the session.
Although slipping behind David Grady at the start of race one on Saturday, Rob swiftly hit back and then remained in second place for the duration of the contest. Staying within a few tenths of a second of pole qualifier Lee Pattison during the early stages, the gap between the two fluctuated thereafter with Rob eventually finishing just 1.5 seconds shy of the win.
Beginning round five on Sunday morning from sixth on the grid, the Evergreen Tyres, Grouptyre Wholesale and BMTR-backed racer produced an excellent performance to get his hands on yet more silverware in his first full season in the MINI Challenge.
Making a great start, Rob climbed into the top four but racing soon fell under Safety Car conditions following an incident further back in the pack at Paddock Hill Bend. When the action resumed, he sought a way into the top three and at mid-distance he made the breakthrough at Surtees.
With absolutely nothing between the lead contenders, the action was fierce and any one of the top four had as good a chance as any at taking the win. In the end, after 12 very action-packed laps, Rob crossed the line in third position for an impressive fifth podium of 2015.
The final race of the weekend, round six, wasn’t as fruitful with a tough first couple of laps leaving Rob down in 13th position and with a lot of work to do. Mounting a strong recovery, he climbed into the top eight before the chequered flag on lap 12 to secure a haul of very important points.
“It’s a shame the way race three turned out, it cast a bit of a shadow over the whole weekend, but we still scored good points for the championship and that’s the main thing”, reflected Rob, “It was a bit frustrating not to get pole in qualifying, having a Safety Car in a qualifying session is never a great thing as you just use up your tyres and the time goes pretty quickly.
“I was still building up to my lap time so the gap to Lee [Pattison] wasn’t representative of where we were, and the race pace proved that. Race one and race two were good, we came into the weekend wanting three podiums but Brands Hatch GP isn’t my favourite track so it’s still been decent to come away with a couple of podium results and the provisional championship lead.”
Rounds seven, eight and nine of the Power Maxed MINI Challenge season will take place over the weekend 13th/14th June at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in Northamptonshire – the scene of Rob’s maiden MINI Challenge race victory last year.