Rob Smith’s hopes of a consistently strong Renault UK Clio Cup outing at Croft in North Yorkshire unfortunately took a knock over the weekend, 22nd/23rd June, when a disappointing retirement from the event’s second race cost him a shot at his fifth top 10 finish of the campaign.
Despite feeling under the weather at the start of the weekend, the Telford driver was mystified by a lack of pace in qualifying on Saturday morning and perplexed to be starting round nine from 20th on the grid – 12th in the Graduate Cup. He did manage to make some strong progress though to climb through into 15th overall, ninth in class.
The initial running of the opening race was red flagged after three laps due to a heavy accident for Devon Modell. When the action was started afresh over a shortened distance of 10 laps, Rob moved into 18th overall on the first lap and then took 17th place off Maltese driver Jacques Mizzi on lap two.
Soon moving into 16th position, the Total Control Racing driver then managed to get alongside James Nutbrown on the run into lap six and across the line Rob was a fraction ahead. Nutbrown had the optimum line though for the first corner, enabling him to keep the place, but on lap eight Rob was able to move into 15th and ninth in the Graduate Cup at the expense of Aaron Williamson.
Making changes to his 2.0-litre Goodride Performance Tyres, Grouptyre and BMTR-sponsored Clio prior to Sunday’s 10th round, the 21-year-old harboured hopes of an upturn in performance and a bid for a top 10 finish and all looked on course after an impressive first half of the race.
Lining-up on the ninth row of the grid, Rob didn’t make the best of starts but quickly made amends and avoided getting caught-up in a first corner melee to move into 16th position overall. Light rain, which began to fall just prior to the start, soon dissipated and the Loughborough University student continued to climb through the order.
After three laps, Rob was in 12th position and knocking on the door of the coveted top 10 as he closed down Jake Giddings and Nutbrown. On lap six, though, the TCR racer lost grip through the fast right-hand kink at Barcroft and was pitched across the grass at high speed – demolishing a couple of advertising boards in the process.
Although recovering to the pits, Rob opted to retire from the race due to having lost a significant amount of time and with his tyres well past their best having been flat-spotted as he battled to save the spin.
“We thought we’d tightened the car up for the second race but it still felt a bit loose, a bit twitchy”, he explained, “At Barcroft it got too much in the end, I went sideways across the grass at 100mph or so and took out a couple of Dunlop boards and flat-spotted all of the tyres so decided to pit.
“I really think we were on for a good top 10, we’d got up into the top 12 after a couple of laps even though we didn’t have a great start. We just need to find some consistency now, I feel we’ve made good progress in some areas we just need to get back to where we know we should be consistently.”
Rob now takes a six week break from track action with the next two Renault UK Clio Cup races, rounds 11 and 12, taking place over the weekend 3rd/4th August at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.