Worcestershire’s Rob Austin returned to the Dunlop British Touring Car podium this afternoon with a superb second place result at Cheshire’s Oulton Park circuit that has helped to move him back into the top ten in the championship standings.
Rob’s podium finish aboard his Exocet Racing Audi came in the second of the day’s three races – shown live on ITV4 and watched by an estimated 40,000 trackside crowd. He coolly dealt with intense pressure from the following factory MG of double champion Jason Plato to cross the line in third place. But officials later made Rob the runner-up after judging that Robert Collard (BMW) had re-passed him for second during a safety car period – forbidden by the rules.
Fifth place in both races 1 and 3 – off the back of a season’s best qualifying performance of sixth on Saturday – all added up to a large haul of championship points and both Rob’s and the team’s most competitive outing to date in 2014. Rob leaves Oulton tonight an impressive 10th in the drivers’ points table.
Rob, from Evesham, commented: “It’s been an awesome weekend for the team and all our great sponsors and fans. The pace has been there in both wet and dry conditions and we’re right back where we belong – right towards the front – and that is against some world class opposition.
“Race 1 was pretty lonely for me and race 3 was all about not dropping it in very difficult conditions. Race 2 of course has been our big highlight. Holding off Jason was key but boy did he put me through the ringer! Collard then slowed too early before we got to the safety car signals so I was straight past – when he re-overtook me after we’d past the first signal I knew he’d be penalised but I still had Jason to deal with when the race re-started. The chequered flag was a welcome sight.
“But perhaps an even bigger high than when I crossed the line was the reaction from the crowd around the podium. I was blown away by how many people there were and the noise they made for us. It’s been a fantastic day and Croft, which is next up in three weeks, is another strong circuit for the Audi…”
Meanwhile it was a tough weekend for Rob’s team-mate Hunter Abbott in his AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing Audi. Problems with his car in Saturday’s practice sessions cost him valuable track time and he qualified an unrepresentative 24th. He finished race 1 in the same position after a spin, then rose to 16th in race 2 with some deft overtaking moves, but retired from race 3 with a damaged car after contact from a rival sent him spinning into the barriers.
Hunter, from Maidenhead, reflected: “The problems in practice have had a big knock-on effect on my race weekend so I really don’t think today reflects the pace that is there, although I was able to show a glimpse of how good things could have been in race 2. Race 3 I didn’t stand a chance – two cars near me collided and one of them piled into the side of my car. It’s frustrating as I believe there was an opportunity for a top ten in qualifying and in a couple of the races as well. But it’s important to look at the bigger picture and I’m sure at Croft we will have a much better time of it.”