Rob Smith Returns To Full-Time Action In MINI Challenge

Renault UK Clio Cup podium finisher Rob Smith has officially confirmed he will contest the remainder of the MINI Challenge UK season – beginning with the upcoming race meeting at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit next weekend, 16th/17th August – thanks to key backing from tyre giant Pirelli.Following the 22-year-old’s car destroying accident during testing for the Clio Cup rounds at Oulton Park back at the beginning of June, which led to him missing that weekend’s racing and also the visit to Croft a couple of weeks later, any realistic hopes of mounting a top three series bid in the British Touring Car Championship support category were lost.Having already agreed a deal with Pirelli to compete in three MINI Challenge UK events, helping to promote the brand’s Performance Centre concept, the Telford driver has now elected to focus on the MINI series for the remainder of the 2014 season rather than returning to the Clio Cup.“The Clio was a write-off at Oulton and, despite having finished on the podium at the first round, missing two full events, coupled with the cost of replacing the car, effectively meant any hopes of a decent finish in the championship were over”, explained Rob, “Pirelli put a deal together with us for three MINI events anyway, so we’re turning our attention to that for the rest of the season.”Rob is, of course, already a podium finisher in the MINI series having impressed during a one-off outing in the category at Donington Park last September where he achieved a best finish of third place in the headline JCW Class with the Excelr8 Motorsport team.Dipping his toe back into the water with the Long Stratton squad during the MINI rounds at Oulton Park in July, his first competitive action since his massive accident at the Cheshire track in his Renault Clio, the Loughborough University graduate secured a best result of fifth position.“I loved racing the MINI in the one-off event at Donington last year and I am really looking forward to Silverstone, having reacquainted myself with the MINI at the Oulton round”, he commented, “I was right on the pace in the third race of the weekend, so we’re aiming for more of the same.“Looking ahead to next year, I am keeping my options open for 2015 and Clio Cup is unfinished business for us. The new MINI, though, and the plans for the MINI Challenge look very exciting and so it’s something we have to consider as well.”After a rollercoaster few months for Rob, he is now looking forward to some consistently strong races at Silverstone and then during the championship finale at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit on 13th/14th September.Next weekend’s MINI Challenge UK qualifying session at Silverstone GP Circuit will take place at 11.50 on Saturday, 16th August, with the first race following at 15.45. On Sunday, 17th August, race two will begin at 12.50 with race three scheduled to commence at 16.20.