Rob Smith, Clio Cup Rookie, bidding for strong start to debut season‏

Saloon car racing newcomer Rob Smith has his sights set on a memorablemaiden weekend in the all-action AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK which beginsits 2012 season this weekend, 31st March/1st April, at Brands Hatch IndyCircuit - a debut which will be broadcast live to the nation on ITV4.Driving for multiple title winning team Total Control Racing in his firstyear in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship support category,the 19-year-old from Telford - who is backed by Goodride Performance Tyres,Grouptyre and BMTR - has already fired a hefty warning shot to his rivals.In the officially timed pre-season test at the 1.2-mile Kent track lastweek, Rob posted a quickest lap of 52.526 seconds (82.78mph) which placedhim a mere 0.001 seconds shy of the coveted top 10 as the 11th fastest ofthe 23 drivers taking part; second quickest of the true Clio Cup rookies.More than that, he rounded-out the day only 0.4 seconds away from theoutright pace set by returning title favourite James Dixon, a multiple racewinner and experienced Clio Cup campaigner. Little more than 0.1 secondswould have hoisted Rob into the top six on the timesheets, proof of theextreme competitiveness of the country's most popular one-make 'tin top'championship."I really was very happy with the way the official test went, it was ourfirst time on track together with all of the other guys and to be just 0.4seconds off the pace was fantastic", said the Shropshire racer, "We knowthis is going to be an unbelievably tough season, there are so many quickdrivers and a lot of experienced saloon car racers up at the front, so I'llhave my work cut out."TCR is the best team out there though, they've been there and done it somany times and I'm aiming to use that experience to make rapid progress asthe season moves forward. I've got some great support from Goodride,Grouptyre and BMTR which has enabled me to make the step into Clios thisyear. I can't wait for this weekend's races, I'm aiming as high as I can."The switch to Clio Cup racing this year from the ranks of national FormulaFord marks a big change for the Loughborough University student - movingfrom rear-wheel drive single-seaters into the heavier, front-wheel driveRenault Clio.Rob has adapted impressively though and since his maiden run with TCR inmid-February he has made significant progress. The aim now is to make thestrongest possible start to rounds one and two of the 16 race championshipthis weekend, a category which has produced top names such as FIA WorldTouring Car Championship title contender Robert Huff and BTCC ace TomOnslow-Cole.After pre-event testing at Brands Hatch on Friday, 30th March, qualifyingand the first race of the 2012 season will take place on Saturday, 31stMarch, at 12.00 and 16.45 respectively. Round two will follow on Sunday, 1stApril, at 15.00 and will be screened live on Freeview, digital satellite andcable channel ITV4, on ITV4 HD and with simultaneous online streaming atitv.com/touringcars

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