Austin has high hopes for Donington meeting - The Evesham Observer

Austin has high hopes for Donington meeting

Evesham Editorial 10th Apr, 2017   0

DONINGTON Park National Circuit hosts the second race meeting of the already spectacular 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship this weekend (April 15/16) when Rob Austin has his sights squarely set on a podium bid after a very competitive start to the season.

The Evesham racer, who bagged a best finish of fifth at the wheel of Handy Motorsport’s Toyota Avensis during the Brands Hatch season-opener at the beginning of the month, heads to Donington feeling confident of more still, especially as the squad was so strong at the Leicestershire circuit in pre-season.

With the fast and flowing 1.96-mile National Circuit more suited to the strengths of the Toyota than the season-opening venue, considering the competitiveness Handy displayed at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit the mood in the team is one of unsurprising positivity.

Frustratingly during the championship curtain-raiser a penalty in round two linked to a highly unfortunate yellow flag infringement, after Austin had earlier raced from eighth to fifth in the opener, prevented a similar result and ultimately led to a back of the grid start for round three.

Despite that, the Worcestershire driver again confirmed his pace and that of the Avensis by carving through the order from 32nd position into the top 18. In doing so, Austin ended the weekend third in the Dunlop #ForeverForward rankings which acknowledge such battling performances.

“Brands was a strong weekend, so it’s such a shame the thing everyone remembers is the incident in race two,” said Austin. “We were on for three top five finishes which would’ve been a fantastic start to the season for us.

“Obviously we couldn’t predict what would’ve happened in race three if I hadn’t started at the back but we know we had the pace.

“We showed a lot of promise and proved we’ve got a good package. Having said that, though, it wasn’t a perfect weekend and there are things we learned which should make us stronger still for Donington.

“All along we’ve looked at Donington as a better track for us than Brands was, so I’m looking forward to it. We need a strong weekend with a lot of points to recover the lost ground.”

During the pre-season Media Day at Donington, Austin steered the Handy Motorsport entry to the second fastest time overall and, while reluctant to use that as a clear guide of potential performance for this coming weekend’s return to the East Midlands, confidence is certainly high.

“I think we can definitely challenge for the top five or six on the grid next weekend, we’ve got no weight (ballast) in the car so that’ll help,” he added.

“We have the car to be up there in qualifying, but our race pace is our strength so if we start well up the order we’ve got a great chance of some good results at Donington.”

Opening practice at Donington Park will take place at 9.30am on Saturday, with the second session following at 12.25pm ahead of qualifying at 3.40pm which will be streamed live online on the website.

On Easter Sunday, round four will start at 11.35am, round five will follow at 2.35pm and round six will begin at around 5.20pm, with each contest screened live on ITV4.

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