Report: Round 5 of The BTCC
Ever since it was announced that Alfa Romeo were making a comeback to the sport after many years absence, we Yorkshire members have been eagerly anticipating the chance to visit our local circuit once again to watch and support our Club-sponsored car in The British Touring Car Championship.
Rob Austin was driving the HMS Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta in this full, three race programme looking to build on his early success in the Independent Class of the Championship. A strong showing at Oulton Park in the last round of races was spoiled by differential issues. Rob was said to have been 'Gutted' after the potential podium loss last time out so was looking to put that right at Croft, where he had the strong support of many AROC Sections and enthusiasts.
We had arranged to redezvous with other AROC Sections for a convoy drive to the track but ultimately shared the HTC Racing Team's frustrations on the day as contact in Race 1 and overheating issues in Race 3 meant that Rob had a disappointing event overall but we were also treated to some absolutely stunning driving in the second race of the day.
In Race 1, after qualifying on the fifth row of the grid, the Giulietta made a very strong start making up multiple places and getting in front of the Vauxhall Astra driven by Josh Cook before being unceremoniously barged into by Cook. This meant that Rob's Alfa ended up marooned in the gravel, the opening lap contact in the first race of the weekend effevtively impacting the entire event for the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing Team.
After a titanic effort by the mechanics who did a quite remarkable job of rebuilding the severely damaged car in time for Race 2, we were treated to the sight of some simply sensational driving by Rob Austin. Starting from the very back of the grid by the end of the race, and after some simply storming driving, he'd made up seventeen places including - during the couse of the race - a blistering eleven places in just a couple of laps! This is what we had come to see. it was sensational stuff and a total joy to watch!
Unfortunately for the Team though, more bad luck was to follow. As if being pushed off the track here at Croft in Race 1 wasn't bad enough, more misfortune was to follow. In pevious rounds of the Championship, the Giulietta had been driven into at Brands, turned around at Donington and broke its differential at Oulton while in a podium position. In the last race at Croft, after moving up into 14th at the beginning of lap six from the 32 starters, on the following lap seven the race ended far too early for Rob as he lost all power with an overheating issue and had to retire.
After yet another weekend of frustration, the Team were said to be looking forward to a two-day Dunlop tyre test and the chance to try some things to make the car even faster during The BTCC's annual mid-summer break with the second half of the championship set to get underway over the weekend 28th/29th July at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.