Rob Smith at Silverstone - courtesy Mark Campbell_CarSceneUK

Rapid MINI Challenge racer Rob Smith earned his long-awaited first victory of the 2018 season at Silverstone.

Nantwich driver Smith and his team are now hopeful the success will mark a watershed moment for his championship bid.

His best finish prior to Silverstone was fourth place, but the 25-year-old put together a fantastic opening to round eight to move into the lead midway around the first lap.

After a safety car delay, the action resumed with enough time for a late sprint to the flag where Smith made a faultless re-start and claimed victory by half a second from Ant Whorton-Eales.

“This has been a long time coming!” said an ecstatic Smith.

“We’ve always known the pace has been there from the start of the year, but we had damper problems at the first two events and then obviously some contact at Snetterton – it all hampered our progress.

“We’re back where we should be.

“If I’d strung it together in qualifying we would have been on the front row of the grid for race one and with the pace to fight for the win on Saturday as well.

“It’s a shame we didn’t have more laps in race two, but a win’s a win!

“It’s fantastic to be back on the top step of the podium, hopefully this can be the real start of our championship.”

Smith made a good start by securing a second row place for the opening encounter with the fourth fastest time in qualifying.

He was edged back to fifth by David Robinson before the safety car was deployed due to a couple of cars encountering dramas.

Rob Smith at Silverstone

When the action resumed at the beginning of lap four, Smith was able to get ahead of Robinson to reclaim fourth.

Smith pushed hard to the chequered flag on lap eight where he was a mere 0.3 seconds shy of his elusive first 2018 podium.

He was due to line-up fifth on the grid for round eight on Sunday but the start was delayed when Jac Maybin hit the rear of Ollie Pidgley’s car on the warm-up lap.

Smith started an elevated third with Maybin and Pidgley out of the equation but he was edged back to fourth into Copse.

Holding fourth into Maggots and Becketts curves, a couple of rivals ahead got out of shape and he threaded his way through into second place on the exit.

And after pressuring for the lead into Stowe, he moved into first place on the run into the left-hander at Vale.

After the Safety Car the encounter got back underway with only enough time left for one racing lap.

And Smith headed former British Touring Car Championship racer Whorton-Eales by 0.5 seconds and went on to take his first win of the year.

Rounds nine and 10 of the season take place on Saturday July 21 at Oulton Park, Cheshire.

(pics courtesy Mark Campbell/CarSceneUK)

Rob Smith - courtesy Mark Campbell_CarSceneUK (1)

Rob Smith

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