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Rob Austin expects ‘mad’ Knockhill qualifying

Rob Austin is anticipating a ‘crazy’ qualifying session ahead of rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill, citing the series’ current large entry list and competitiveness as reasons.

Austin set a new qualifying lap record of 52.471 seconds en-route to his maiden BTCC pole position 12 months ago and the Evesham-based driver believes that his time could be lowered yet again this year, despite the challenge of having 30 other cars all trying to qualify at the same time around the 1.27 mile circuit.

“The intensity and level of competition has moved on since last August which makes it tough enough to break into the top ten as it is and then there is the insane prospect of what lies in store in qualifying on Saturday afternoon. This is going to be the craziest qualifying session of all time,” he commented.

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“Half a second was the difference between pole and 15th on the grid last year. I predict it will be even less this time around while I also expect another two tenths of a second to be knocked off that pole time at least.”

The Exocet Racing driver doesn’t see a similar situation at Knockhill to Brands Hatch Indy, despite the Kent circuit being, at 1.20 miles, shorter than the Fife circuit and he is expecting some drivers to come back at the end of the session with damage to their cars – a situation that Austin is hoping to avoid with his Audi A4.

“Sure we had a fairly problem-free qualifying session for the opening round at Brands Hatch Indy [an even shorter lap] at the start of the season but Knockhill is very different – there are far more blind brows and it is much easier to trip up over a slower car or for drivers not on a hot one to not spot people coming up fast in their mirrors.

“With the title race coming to a bit of a critical point as well I’d imagine there will be some very angry drivers on Saturday evening. I hope I’m not one of them and that our strategy will work out like in 2013.

“One thing is guaranteed: it is going to make for an incredible spectacle for the fans trackside or those watching the live coverage on,” Austin concluded.

Austin’s team-mate Hunter Abbott admits he is looking forward to the BTCC’s annual ‘foreign’ race in Scotland, and says the two free practice sessions on Saturday will be especially important.

“Track time in the two practice sessions on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying is going to be crucial,” said Abbott. “With all the blind brows I’m going to use the practices to get my eye dialled in and find out what a BTCC car can and can’t do around there. I’ll be mining Rob for as much information as possible!

“Croft was great but Snetterton wasn’t a good meeting for me. I’ve put it behind me and now I’m focusing on the one ‘foreign’ race of the year. Knockhill is a very different circuit to anywhere else on the calendar and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Indeed Abbott has previously raced around the Fife circuit with Austin in the past – the duo shared a Ginetta G50 in the British GT race in 2008 and won their class.

“I’ve been to Knockhill twice before – in 2008 when I shared a GT car with Rob and we won, and in 2012 in the Ginetta Supercup when I got T-boned at the hairpin by my team-mate and had a small fire,” said Abbott. “I’ll be trying to avoid a repetition of that like the plague!”

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