Smith unfortunate to miss out on double top 10 at Snetterton
Renault UK Clio Cup racer Rob Smith was very unlucky to miss out on a pair of top 10 finishes at Snetterton 300 Circuit over the weekend, 3rd/4th August, having shown excellent front-running pace in rounds 11 and 12 of the season.
Although the unfortunate victim of contact in the opening race on Saturday afternoon, while running in 10th place overall, the Total Control Racing driver salvaged a hard-fought top 12 finish in Sunday's outing but it could have been so much more – having been as high as seventh position early on.
Pre-event testing on Friday, 2nd August, was largely unproductive for the entire Clio Cup field with the first session running in changeable conditions and the second completely wet following a midday rain storm.
Conditions were much different for qualifying on Saturday, as warm temperatures returned to the Norfolk venue, and at the start of the session Rob ran very strongly indeed inside the top five and on course for a season's best performance. After the tyre change pit-stop, however, a further step forward in pace wasn't forthcoming and he ended up 13th fastest overall.
Making a good start to round 11 on Saturday afternoon, the 21-year-old climbed into 11th place on the opening lap and although slipping a position the next time around, he leapt into the top 10 on lap four, fending off the close attentions of multiple Clio Cup race winner Stefan Hodgetts.
Soaking up a lot of pressure from his vastly more experienced rival, while at the same time looking to make an attack on ninth placed James Nutbrown, Rob's bid came to an untimely conclusion on the sixth tour when Hodgetts inadvertently made contact with the TCR car due to steering failure.
Recovering to the track down in 17th position overall, a long way down on the lead pack, Rob at least scored a handful of championship points but rued what looked set to be a deserved, and extremely competitive, top 10 result.
In Sunday's encounter, the Goodride Performance Tyres, Grouptyre and BMTR-backed racer – who was also supported by East Anglia's own We Sell Tyres (Wholesale) this weekend – made a terrific start from 12th on the grid and brilliantly surged through into seventh. An attempt to move further up the order on lap two, though, instead resulted in a slip to 12th spot, where he eventually finished.
"I got a really good start, a good first lap, and I was a bit more aggressive than I was in the first race which was working well", explained Rob reflecting on round 12, "I just made sure I was in the gaps I needed to be and then also making gaps too, it was all going alright.
"We got up to seventh but then it all kicked-off in front of us. I got a massive run on [Josh] Wakefield and had a choice of either pushing him all the way up the start/finish straight, as I was going that much faster than him, or going outside at the first corner. I went outside and it didn't work, I don't know whether I was over-working the diff but I lost some revs and a few people just shot by."
He added: "When we got to the track before Sunday's race we found the car had a slow puncture on the right-rear, so we had to put a better tyre on and that upset the balance a bit. Overall it's been a strong weekend, the pace has been there and a lot of what went wrong was just down to luck."
There is now a six week break from action for the Renault UK Clio Cup with the season resuming at Rockingham in Northamptonshire on 14th/15th September. Following this weekend's action Rob stays 14th in the main standings, only four points outside the top 12, and ninth in the Graduate Cup class.
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd12):
14th Rob Smith, 91pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup' Standings (after Rd12):
9th Rob Smith, 148pts
Images courtesy of Jakob Ebrey.