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Rob Austin continues to evaluate Audi switch

Rob Austin dropped the firmest hint yet that his team will switch from its pair of Audi A4s for the 2016 British Touring Car Championship season, despite an encouraging weekend at Snetterton.

Austin qualified in a lowly 21st place for race one but followed the example set by Jason Plato at Croft by pitting before the start, to secure a slot on the seventh row of the grid for race two after setting the 13th quickest lap in the opening encounter.

The 34 year-old went on to make the most of that opportunity, as he managed a double score in the weekend’s remaining races after finishing ninth in race two and eighth in race three.

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And speaking to TouringCars.Net, Austin was pleasantly surprised to have recorded two top-ten finishes at what has traditionally been a difficult circuit for his machine.

“It wasn’t looking like it yesterday,” he said after a strong afternoon. “We had a little issue with the car that we couldn’t trace, [but] the boys worked really hard and found it overnight and the car was transformed today.

“I thought we’d picked the wrong race for the softs – we could have maybe qualified a bit higher up – but I qualified in 13th and got up to ninth [in race two], and just stayed out of trouble as much as I could in that second race, because Jesus there was a lot of carnage.

“I’m really chuffed with myself there [in race three]; the laps times were really consistent, I was well chuffed. I knew the car was not the quickest around here but I did my best.

“I could see [Tom] Ingram being held up behind [Adam] Morgan and I know that Speedworks car is bloody quick so I was happy to see Morgan keep defending. He [Ingram] caught me at the end and we had a bit of side-by-side action and it was a good race without contact so I’m really happy.”

Despite those results, Austin said he felt his current package was masking the efforts of his squad.

Austin and his eponymous outfit have campaigned Audi A4s in the championship since the introduction of the NGTC regulations in 2011, which was also the team’s first year in the series.

But after admitting at Croft that he was considering a change of car, Austin, now in his fifth season in the championship, indicated that a switch to new machinery was on the cards for 2016.

“Overall we still feel like we’re fighting with one hand tied behind our back with this Audi platform,” he said. “As a team we’ve really grown and developed a lot over the last five years but I really feel like we’re maxing that thing out.

“Back then, the whole idea was that they’d [NGTC] be big cars, so we bought a car to fit in with those rules.

“I think it was when Honda wanted to build the Civic, that opened the gates for everyone else to bring in nice, short, stiff cars and we’ve been on the back foot ever since really.

“But given a good platform I don’t see any reason why we can’t be fighting right at the front every time.”

Austin was hard pushed to reveal what cars he was evaluating, but seeking the backing of a manufacturer, hinted that any switch would be away from an Audi model.

“It’s something we’re working on for next year, nothing confirmed yet but we’d love to try and get some manufacturer support behind it, obviously – we’ll wait and see.

“It would be lovely if Audi helped out; they haven’t put one penny in yet. They said good luck but that’s the most support we’ve had from Audi.”

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