Rob Austin already knows when he’s playing his joker card

Rob Austin says he’s already decided when to play his soft tyre “joker” as he prepares for the season opener at Brands Hatch.

Austin and team-mate Will Bratt will take to the Kent circuit in fully rebuilt Audi A4s, both with high hopes for the weekend ahead.

And the Rob Austin Racing team principal says he’s already decided which race to use Dunlop’s new soft compound tyre, despite not having to make the decision until before qualifying.

But he also predicted qualifying would lead to “a lot of disgruntled drivers” as the huge grid battle for a clear lap on the short Indy layout.

Austin said: “There is some strategy involved. I’ve already decided which race I’ll use them in but I’m keeping it totally to myself. People will find out when I head to the grid.

“Saturday qualifying, when it matters for the first time this year, will be the first time we get an idea of the form guide, but even then it will be a bit of a lottery.

“It’s a very short, tight circuit and, with something like 30 cars taking part, timing it right so you get a clear circuit on your banzai qualifying lap will be crucial.

“In fact anyone who gets a clear lap with so many cars about will be very lucky and I can see there being a lot of disgruntled drivers at the end of the session.”

Regarding his hopes for the season, Austin said: “We’ve completed a very good pre-season testing programme with runs on the Brands Indy circuit which we’ll race on this weekend plus Rockingham, Donington Park and Silverstone.

“My season last year got off to a very strong start on the Brands Indy circuit with three top ten results and there could even have been a win had my engine not started overheating which meant I had to back off.

“Our cars have made a lot of progress since then but so have lots of other cars.

“I can’t wait for it all to get under way and to meet the fans during the pit lane autograph session on Sunday morning.”