Telford's Rob Smith declared himself highly encouraged by his maiden test outing around Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire at the wheel of his AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup car on Thursday, 5th April, after ending the run as third fastest Rookie Cup competitor and on the fringe of the overall top 10.Just four days removed from his first ever race weekend in the massively competitive saloon car championship, the Goodride Performance Tyres, Grouptyre and BMTR-backed driver enjoyed a solid day of preparation at the 2.36-mile track - the only chance competitors will have to test at Thruxton prior to the upcoming race meeting there at the end of April.In the morning session, Rob was 10th fastest with a best time of 1m26.116 seconds (98.49mph) before improving to a quickest of 1m25.512 seconds (99.18mph) in the afternoon. Rounding out the day 12th on combined times in his Total Control Racing run Clio, he was also third fastest Rookie."I'm happy with how the day went", said the 19-year-old, "It was an encouraging test and according to Lee (Brookes - TCR team principal) I was on about the same pace as past TCR guys like [Jonathan] Fildes have been on their first time at Thruxton."The first session was good, especially through the quick stuff around the back, but I did need to work a bit on the braking in the slower corners, like the last chicane. On theoretical lap times there was definitely another second there to gain which would have put us up near the top six."The hectic start to the 2012 season continues apace next week ahead of the third and fourth rounds of the AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup which will take place on 14th/15th April at Donington Park National Circuit in Leicestershire.
Very much a 'home' event for the Loughborough University student, Rob is relishing the prospect of racing his Renault Clio for the first time at a track he says is one of the best in the UK and is a place he has enjoyed good success at in the past when racing in Formula Ford.Off the back of a best result of eighth position during the Clio Cup season-opener at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent last weekend, the saloon car newcomer has underlined his strong potential early on and is aiming for nothing less than top 10 performances in both Donington encounters."I have raced at Donington quite a bit in Formula Ford and it is one of my favourite circuits", he added, "Ideally I want to qualify inside the top 10 and then get top 10 results in both races, we're capable of doing that - I'm really looking forward to it."Rob's first track action at Donington next week will come on Thursday, 12th April, for the pre-event test sessions with qualifying following at 11.50 on Saturday, 14th April, and both races taking place on Sunday, 15th April, at 09.20 and 15.00 respectively.
The second race will be screened live in the UK on Freeview, digital satellite and cable channel ITV4, in High Definition on ITV4 HD and with the addition of online streaming at itv.com/btcc
2012 AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd2):=13th Rob Smith, Ignas Gelzinis & Mark Tilbury, 14pts