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Rob Austin relying on race pace after qualifying

Exocet Racing’s Rob Austin says he has been left “having to overtake people in the races” after the Audi driver could only manage 13th on the grid in British Touring Car Championship qualifying at Snetterton.

Although eighth fastest in first practice, Austin had only been 15th in the more representative second free practice session. The Pershore-based racer’s fortunes did not improve much in qualifying either, ending up on the seventh row of the grid for the race which marks his team’s 100th entry in the series.

Austin believes he has a strong car for Sunday’s races, thanks to the race-pace his rear-wheel drive Audi has shown in the past.

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“It always comes back to us in race trim and I genuinely sense we have an opportunity to make a good number of places and come away with some really good points tomorrow,” said Austin. “Same old same old in qualifying – the rear-wheel-drive Audi can’t match the front-wheel-drive cars on single-lap qualifying pace and that leaves us having to overtake people in the races, but that’s what I love doing and what I’ll be aiming to do in front of the fans tomorrow.

“Qualifying was so-so… nothing too spectacular. We’ve been suffering with understeer which is hurting our mid-corner speed. Hopefully we can make some further tweaks to cure that for tomorrow, plus in a race situation things get very bunched with people tripping over one another. I need to make sure I’m in the right place at the right time to capitalise when my moment comes.”

Austin, who is currently 14th in the championship but only six points away from tenth-placed Fabrizio Giovanardi, aims to leave the Norfolk circuit back in the top ten overall.

“I’d really like to come away from Snetterton back in the top ten in the championship particularly as we have two really good circuits for the Audi – Knockhill and Rockingham – next up,” added the 33-year-old.

If Austin’s qualifying session was challenging, then team-mate Hunter Abbott’s was nothing less than a disaster after he could only manage 26th. To make matters worse, the AlcoSense-backed driver then stopped at the end of the session with an electrical probem.

“We’re at a bit of a loss really with the lack of pace but, as Rob says, I know things will be better for us in a race situation,” admitted Abbott. “I showed at Croft last time out I can pick people off at the starts and keep on making up places. I definitely need some more of that tomorrow.”

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