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Rob Austin proud to be part of BTCC

Rob Austin described the strength and depth of competition in the 2014 British Touring Car Championship as ‘the most competitive tin top championship in the world’, as he encountered an opening day of the season that was full of ups and downs.

After qualifying in 11th for the opening round of the season, the Audi star made a traditionally quick getaway in his machine, ‘Sherman’, and came close to reaching the podium, hunting down the Honda pair of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden to finish in fifth place.

The weekend looked to have taken an all-too familiar turn towards his 2013 fortunes as a propshaft failure put him out of the race before it had started, but a storming drive in the final race of the day saw Austin take 11th at the chequered flag – a gain of 17 places from his gridslot for the race.

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Despite the disappointment of the day’s second encounter, Austin was encouraged with the speed that he was able to display across the two days at Brands Hatch.

“Race One we proved what we thought in the winter – that Sherman has got fantastic pace,” said Austin to TouringCars.Net. “It’s a shame about race two. We’re going into our fourth season now and [we had] a prop break.

“We had one break in our very first race due to design error but it hasn’t broken since then and it’s just heart-braking, it’s a bit soul-crushing but we bounced back straight away.

“I really think we could have been on for a very strong result in race two and then race three but that’s motorsport. The positives are [that] the car is strong – we’ve proved that again in the third race, I think we were [the] second fastest lap or we were very close and I got through a helluva lot of cars to go from 28th to 11th.

“On this grid as well, it’s world class and to be able to do that, it proves that the car is very good.”

And having completed a full pre-seasonof testing, Austin believed he could maintain his speed at Donington in three weeks and throughout the remainder of the season, but could not be fully drawn on a prediction for the rest of the campaign.

“We’re very confident,” said the BTCC race winner. “We went there [Donington] testing pre-season and we started off a little bit off the pace – just under a second away – we tried a few things and eventually it just clicked and we were bang on it.

“Last year we’d done no testing so we’d go to a circuit and we’d tweak it and eventually by race three we had the pace but it’s too late by then, so having really focused on the circuits that we were weak at last year we’ve really brought the car on and I’m very confident [that] anywhere we go this year I think we’ll be able to put in a similar performance if not better.”

“I want to put a whole championship together. This year we’re not going for ‘a good result at this weekend’, we are looking at the bigger picture this year.

“I’ve got my personal goals, I believe they’re realistic. I’d rather keep them to myself – I’m not one to talk myself up – but I’ve got my sights set high and I believe there is still more to come in the car and I think we can be consistently up there.”

The weekend also saw Hunter Abbott make his debut in the team’s second car,

“Hunter has done mega,” said Austin of the former GT and Ginetta racer. “We tested here pre-season, we really haven’t changed the car much at all through the weekend because we’d nailed it down pre-season.

“He’s been getting quicker and quicker and certain in race two he was only two-tenths slower than Andrew Jordan’s pace, and he won it.

“He’s been progressing through the weekend, we’ve been working together, chatting through the data and getting used to it [the car] and learning it and he’s brought the car home in all three races, stayed out of trouble – I think he lost a couple of places [which is] just an experience thing in this championship but I’m proud of the decision I made, I think he’s done a sterling job and deserves credit.

“I said when we signed him that I think he’ll surprise a few people. I don’t think a lot of people have noticed his pace today but I’m sure they will because he’ll go to Donington and start where he left off so he’ll be a lot closer straight away.”

Austin also had praise for the state of the championship, with the level of competition, quality of drivers and attendance on racedays making him grateful to be a part of it.

“The strength [and] depth of competition…this is a proper, world class grid,” said the 33-year-old. “I’d say this is the most competitive championship in touring cars, the most competitive tin top championship in the world and I’m just so proud to be a part of it.

“There’s got to be 40,000 people here today and the support from the fans is amazing, and it’s a really cool thing to be a part of, I’m so proud.”

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