Top Five Finishes At Brands GP For Smith In MINI Finale‏

Rob Smith signed-off the MINI Challenge UK season at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 13th/14th September, with another set of front-running performances for the Excelr8 Motorsport team – the Telford racer securing a pair of competitive top five finishes in the JCW Class.Displaying pace good enough to fight it out for the podium in each of the first two races, hopes of ending the event on the rostrum in race three were dashed when the final outing was abandoned early on due to a multi-car incident further back in the pack which damaged trackside barriers.Following on strongly from his maiden victory in the MINI Challenge at Silverstone a few weeks ago, yet another consistent outing for the Pirelli-backed driver at the wheel of his 220bhp MINI has given Rob plenty of food for thought ahead of next season’s racing.“It’s a little bit frustrating to have missed the podium this weekend, but both races were a lot of fun and there was plenty of good action – it was a nice way to end the year”, he reflected, “We had the pace to be on the podium again for sure, there was some good dicing and the races were pretty frenetic really. Either of them could have gone any way to be honest, it was that tight.“Given the performances we’ve shown in the few races we’ve done in the MINIs, relative to those who have been testing and racing all year, I’m sure we could have a good crack at it next year. The team did a fantastic job again this weekend, the car has been great and really enjoyable to drive.”He added: “With the new car coming out next year, which looks to be halfway between a [Renault] Clio and a touring car, the championship looks very interesting. With the great atmosphere in the paddock, how good the racing is and the sensible budget, it makes good sense for the MINI Challenge to be on the radar for next year. Hopefully we’ll get chance to test the new car soon.”Beginning Saturday’s race from fourth on the grid, Rob was unfortunately shuffled back to seventh place on the opening lap but quickly started to make amends and climbed back into the top six at the start of the second tour. Bottled up behind Henry Duprey, Rob searched for a way past but his rival defended heavily which allowed the lead quartet to begin escaping at the front.Running nose-to-tail lap after lap, on the ninth tour the pair moved into fourth and fifth respectively when Lawrence Davey dropped out. Try as he might over the final few laps, Rob just couldn’t quite prise open the chance he needed and eventually took the chequered flag on lap 12 a mere 0.188 seconds shy of Duprey.Lining-up fifth on the grid for race two on Sunday, as per his finishing position from the day before, the Shropshire racer emerged from the opening lap in sixth place and spent the early laps glued to the tail of the group ahead as the lead sextet ran in close formation.With nothing to separate the front-runners, the slightest opportunity had to be seized and although nudged down a place on the seventh tour Rob quickly returned to the top six within a lap. With the race then stabilising, sixth looked to be the result the Pirelli-backed racer would take away but on the final tour Jono Brown fell back to elevate Rob into the top five.

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