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Rob Austin frustrated despite best qualifying of 2015

Rob Austin was left with mixed emotions ahead of tomorrow’s three British Touring Car Championship races at Croft, despite qualifying in a season’s-best seventh place.

Austin finished 18th in the morning’s first practice session but found speed throughout the day to set the seventh-fastest time in qualifying, with only the three West Surrey Racing BMWs, both Honda Civics and Colin Turkington ahead of him on the Round 13 grid.

That result trumped his previous best 2015 grid slot of 12th at Donington Park, but the team owner/driver insisted he could have qualified even further up the order.

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“I’m really happy because it’s our best qualifying of the season but I know there was more in the car,” he reflected. “We got a bit of traffic off a couple of guys including Matt Neal who has apologised but there was another tenth or two which would have made a huge difference today.

“But [with] a top ten and our best qualifying of the season I can’t be too displeased.”

Croft has been a favourable circuit for the Audi, but after a disappointing meeting at Oulton Park – another traditionally happy hunting ground for his team – Austin had kept his expectations in check heading to the Yorkshire circuit.

But while his improved pace had given him reason to be optimistic, Austin insisted that there was still work for him and his team to do ahead of tomorrow’s three races.

“It’s been a much harder start to the year than we had expected,” he told TouringCars.Net. “It’s an incredibly competitive year – there aren’t many championships around that are this competitive and it’s certainly by far the toughest year that I’ve competed in.

“We’ve been lacking something somewhere. This circuit suits rear-wheel drive cars, but I think it suits us [more] as well as that so I think it gets us back into the game a little bit.

“But we’ve still got some work to do because West Surrey Racing are still half a second down the road.”

Nevertheless, Austin remained upbeat about his chances of securing his best result of the campaign to date, having opted for a ‘brave’ tyre strategy for Sunday.

“It’s going to be very dependent on the weather and our tyres,” he said, when asked if he thought victory was possible. “I think there’s always a chance but I think I’ve broken the mould on the tyre choice so the weather’s going to affect what happens.

“Tyre wear could be a huge factor this weekend; the new tyre from Dunlop comes in quickly but goes off quicker and the track for some reason this year feels like it’s very abrasive.

“I want to be on slicks – I don’t mind a bit of damp, tricky and drying conditions. We’ve been a bit brave on my tyre choice because I know everybody else is banking on it raining so I hope it plays into my hands.”

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