Smith eyeing wins at Oulton
Rob Smith cannot wait to return to his local track Oulton Park this coming Saturday, 19th August, when the Mini Challenge resumes for the seventh event of the season. Smith, who heads to the picturesque track off the back of impressive victories during the previous two race meetings at Brands Hatch, is also determined to maintain the outstanding qualifying form which locked out pole position at the Kent venue’s Indy Circuit and Grand Prix Circuit layouts.
While contact early in the second race at Brands Hatch GP a week ago triggered a hugely frustrating retirement and pegged the Crewe-based driver back to sixth in the championship, he will arrive at Oulton park only 14 points shy of the top three. Importantly though, when ‘drop scores’ are taken into account he is actually fourth in the standings and just 12 points outside the runner-up spot.
Justifiably confident in his own ability, and with Oulton Park bringing lots of local support for the Mini UK VIP Customer Team racer, Smith is hoping for his strongest weekend yet and is focused on delivering major points scores in both of Saturday’s all-action races. Notably, Oulton Park is also the local venue for two of his chief sponsors, Evergreen Tyres and Oak Tyres which are based in Haydock in nearby Merseyside. Clearly, a successful weekend for all concerned would be a major fillip ahead of the championship finale next month at Donington Park.
“It’s great to be back at Oulton, I love the track and have always gone well there in whatever I’ve raced”, said Smith, “It’s always good being at your home circuit and it’s a very important event for my sponsor Oak Tyres, who are local, as they’re a key part of the Evergreen Tyres relationship. We should have some big crowds for the Mini Festival, so I can’t wait. On drop scores we’re only a point outside third in the championship and I think P2 is still on the cards by the end of the year. We need to keep up the recent form in qualifying and in the first race, then focus on making it count in race two as well. There are only three people I need to beat to make that happen, so we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing with podiums and wins.”
Without any shadow of a doubt, had it not been for some serious misfortune with car gremlins and contact from rivals during the 2017 campaign Smith would almost certainly be battling it out for the coveted Mini Challenge crown into the final two events. Even so, he has consistently displayed his electric pace and a few days from now will be aiming to replicate the speed which delivered the Sunoco Fastest Driver of the Weekend accolade at Oulton during the championship curtain-raiser over Easter weekend on the full International Circuit.
“If things had gone our way this season I genuinely believe we could have been on pole every weekend”, added the Evergreen Tyres, BMTR, GroupTyre and Oak Tyres supported racer, “When we visited Oulton earlier in the year I had the fastest lap of the weekend in the race, I just couldn’t get a clear lap in qualifying. Hopefully we can change that this time around and then push for the win.”
Qualifying for the Mini Festival will begin at 08.30 on Saturday, 19th August, with round 15 getting underway at 10.50 followed by round 16 at 14.40.