Two out of three, not bad!

28th August 2014

Finishing on the podium in the BTCC is always a very special moment but the Knockhill podium seems to have something extra. The positioning of the podium (so it’s easy for people to get to) means that there seem to be more people than normal and their enthusiasm is incredible: combined, both make it a very special experience that will never be forgotten.

And to have a louder cheer than the local hero after what happened in the races was extra sweet so I’ll start my blog with a HUGE ‘thank you’ to all our supporters who came to the RAR Owners Club get-together, the KX Akademy Q&A, the podium celebrations and everyone and around the track cheering on Sherman! You can’t imagine how much motivation it gives me and I know I am very lucky to have the support of so many great BTCC fans.

Anyway, on to the racing. Race 1 was going well, I was in P2 and had caught Sam who was leading. I needed a clean run at him so I tried to let him go a bit so that I could catch him again and at the same time pull a gap to the Hondas behind. The idea was that when I attempted a move on Sam I would have that gap and wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked at the same time. That plan backfired when Gordon tagged me in a straight line. I really thought it was going in the wall hard for a moment there. God knows how I hung on but Sherman looked after me and we rejoined in 5th. That became 3rd when Gordon then squeezed Andy, lost it and they both went off. During the safety car Sam broke down so 3rd became 2nd but I have to say I thought Sam did a sterling job to put it on pole and he drove the wheels off a car that doesn’t really suit Knockhill so I really felt for him. He deserved a podium out of that race. Anyway, as he slowed I lost a gap to Neal behind the safety car so as it went green again and with only a few laps remaining I didn’t have time to challenge him. I got damn close but needed another lap unfortunately.

Race 2. I got a good run to Duffus Dip but unfortunately was subject to more contact from the manufacturer Honda team. I gave Matt Neal room at the apex as I went around the outside of him but he didn’t show me the same respect at the exit. Looking at the replay he was on the exit kerb (me on the grass) with his front bumper still buried in to the side of my rear bumper forcing me off the track.

I can only assume that he was trying to get me out of the way to help Gordon’s championship challenge. Ironically it was his shove that caused me to collect Gordon at the bottom of the hill as I came back on and that ruined his race. Naturally he has complained and implied that it was deliberate but please… as if I could plan that as I’m desperately trying to regain control of the car bouncing down the concrete and grass. Nope I’m afraid if he’s looking for someone to blame then he only has his own teammate to look to.

Anyway we ended up in 3rd behind Mat Jackson and Jason Plato who had taken advantage of me getting bounced around between the Hondas on lap one. It was a little frustrating from there as I felt I had better pace than both the cars ahead and I really REALLY wanted a win! But Jason didn’t put a wheel wrong and an opportunity to pass never arose.

Race 3 was going well, again the car was mega but as I was just figuring out how I was going to get past Morgan who had benefited from the reversed grid and was defending hard I got a whack from behind from Jason as I was apexing the hairpin and our race was over with my rear suspension broken.

The BTCC is an extremely competitive and tough championship and with there being so many high class drivers you can’t race the same way with all of them. The way I work is to see how much respect and racing room a driver gives me and then race them accordingly. Most of the grid I will happily run side by side with and enjoy great fair racing but the Honda drivers have been knocking me around for 3 seasons now and combined with the way my season has gone I've just reached my limit with them (and I know I’m far from alone here – in fact there is even a club)! Jason, contrary to his reputation as the pantomime villain, has always been very fair. We have had plenty of great side by side races and not made any contact so this was a surprise to me. I don’t know what action TOCA will take but I have seen his onboard and I don’t think there was any malice and he certainly wasn’t going for a move that late on in the corner and from that far back. I think he was just trying to take a tight line defending Mat Jackson and got it wrong. I would like to think that I will get an apology when I see him next and that will be the end of it as far as I’m concerned.

Accidents happen and I can accept that – God knows I've made my fair share of mistakes in my career. All you can do is hold your hands up and hope for forgiveness but when there’s intent, malice or its just plain arrogance then that’s a very different story. In years gone by I have kept my mouth shut while certain other drivers go to town about my driving in the media, but why shouldn’t I put my view across? Time to tell it like it is… and I have a memory like an elephant ;-)

Anyway, moving on, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Rob Collard and Dave Newsham. They both had a great race 3, thoroughly deserved their great results and it was a pleasure to see.

Looking ahead to Rockingham, well, I simply can’t wait! We struggle to understand Sherman sometimes; he can be a stubborn sod and at some tracks we just can’t get him working right but around other tracks it’s like he’s on rails! We have only capitalised at 50% of the tracks where we know Sherman likes, with the propshaft breaking at Brands and me making a mess of Croft, but Rockingham is another great opportunity for us show what we are capable of.

As ever in this championship it will be bloody tough but I know my team of superstars will give me a great car and I will have the tools I need to fight at the front. Another win is clearly the aim but the grid is so much more competitive this year it will need everything to fall in to place and a little luck wouldn’t hurt.

If you’re interested in hearing anymore of my views and thoughts I will be on Tin Top Tuesday… Err… on Tuesday (2 Sept) with my old pal Alan Hyde. It’s always great fun to be part of so tune in and tweet us some questions.

Images credited to Phil Laughton Photography.

 

 

Rob Austin