Fourth top 10 of season for Smith on home at Oulton
Although an unfortunate puncture in the first encounter on Saturday prevented the 21-year-old from claiming a brace of almost certain top 10 results at his ‘home' venue, the Telford racer produced an outstanding performance in the second outing to expertly see off the challenge of multiple UK championship podium finisher, and Eurocup Clio race winner, Josh Files.
Enjoying plenty of support from sponsors Goodride Performance Tyres, Grouptyre and BMTR at his home race meeting, Rob also gave Haydock-based local backer Oak Tyres Ltd plenty to cheer with his fourth outright top 10 finish of the season and second highest class result of 2013.
As well as moving up into 13th position in the overall title race, a mere seven points shy of the coveted top 10, the Total Control Racing driver has also climbed into equal seventh in the Graduate Cup class.
"After a couple of rocky weekends it's nice to get back to the direction we were going during winter testing – especially when it's been as competitive as it has this weekend", said Rob, "The second race was good, I had the guy who set the fastest lap of the race behind me [Josh Files] and managed to keep him at bay.
"He's got a reputation as a hard racer and he's a regular on the podium, plus he's won in Europe in the new Clio, so I don't think we can complain about our performance at all. It would have been very similar in Saturday's race if it hadn't been for the puncture. If we can get a couple more tenths out of the car in qualifying, then we'll be well in with a shout for the podium. It's been a good weekend."
After lapping a very strong 10th fastest overall during pre-event practice on Friday, 7th June, Rob found an extra 0.6 seconds in qualifying on Saturday morning to remain among the front runners and set the ninth best time with a lap of 1m36.286 seconds (83.22mph). Placing him just 0.2 seconds shy of pole position, the TCR driver's second fastest lap put him ninth on the grid again for race two.
Although making a good start to the opening encounter, Rob did slip to 10th place but moved back into ninth on lap two when Ant Whorton-Eales made a mistake at the chicane and tagged one of the tyre stacks. Following a brief Safety Car period, racing resumed on the seventh tour and Rob stayed ninth initially before being elbowed back to 10th on the following lap.
Fighting hard to fend off the cars behind, it soon became apparent Rob had sustained a front-right puncture – a result of running over debris following Whorton-Eales' moment on lap two – which ultimately led to a slip down the order to 15th place, ninth in the Graduate Cup class.
In round eight on Sunday, in baking hot conditions, Rob made a great getaway to hold ninth place and he piled on the pressure to Whorton-Eales during the early running. Following a brief mid-race Safety Car period, the action resumed on lap 10 and Rob made a textbook re-start.
Although Files started to become a factor, particularly on lap 11 at the hairpin when he almost nosed alongside, Loughborough University student Rob managed to see off his more experienced rival to claim a very hard-fought, and incredibly well deserved, ninth place – fifth in the Graduate Cup.
Next on the calendar for the Renault UK Clio Cup is a visit to Croft Circuit, near Darlington in North Yorkshire, on 22nd/23rd June.
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd8):
13th Rob Smith, 72pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup' Standings (after Rd8):
=7th Rob Smith & Ant Whorton-Eales, 112pts