Austin is second fastest at BTCC Media Day - The Evesham Observer

Austin is second fastest at BTCC Media Day

Evesham Editorial 21st Mar, 2017 Updated: 21st Mar, 2017   0

ROB AUSTIN underlined Handy Motorsport’s clear potential for the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season with an outstanding performance during officially timed testing at Donington Park.

Joining 29 of the other competitors confirmed for this year’s BTCC, which begins at Brands Hatch in Kent on April 1/2, Evesham driver Austin worked conscientiously through the team’s planned programme and the end result of second fastest confirmed pre-season pace.

At the wheel of his striking Toyota Avensis, which this year carries headline sponsorship from Duo and Northgate, the 36-year-old posted a best lap of 1min, 10.109secs which placed him a mere 0.1 seconds shy of the top spot on the timesheets for Swindon-based Handy.

“Donington has been a good indicator, but it’s by no means the full picture,” reflected Austin.

“We were confident we had good pace in the car and the test proved it, but I know there’s no way all of the works Hondas, Subarus and BMWs will be outside the top ten come Brands, as they were at Media Day.

“Our plan was to just go about our test programme as though nobody was watching and at the end of the day see how we stacked up.

“To be P2 was a pleasant surprise considering I had made such a mess of our new tyre run that we had actually set our fastest time of the day on old tyres, so there was plenty left on the table.”

As ever during the annual pre-season launch at Donington Park, the day began with a range of media activities and interviews with competitors taking to the track in the afternoon for the only collective test ahead of the opening race weekend.

With just a couple of red flag stoppages during the test, when rival cars needed to be retrieved following incidents, a largely unbroken four-hour block of testing gave Handy Motorsport the opportunity to undertake a lot of mileage where race set-up was the paramount consideration.

Team principal Simon Belcher added: “We ran the hard tyres mostly, did a lot of laps on those and only did one new tyre run, so to be P2 we’re happy with that.

“There was more time to be had but there are no prizes for the test day, it’s in a couple of weeks where that counts.

“We focused on a lot of longer runs and everything is looking really good ahead of Brands. It’s confirmed what we thought during the pre-season.

“Overall for the day we’re really happy and very excited ahead of the first round.”

While mindful the pecking order at the end of Media Day will not necessarily translate to the eventual order at Brands Hatch, Austin says he is very confident his Toyota Avensis has the capability to qualify and, more importantly, race very competitively to mount a big challenge.

“I’m certainly confident going to Brands,” he added. “I’ll try to qualify on pole, of course, but this is an extremely competitive year and cannot be underestimated, so realistically I will be happy as long as we can qualify in the top ten.

“We’ve developed an extremely strong race car and I believe that if we can start in the top ten on Saturday then we will be set for a very exciting Sunday.”

Rounds one, two and three of the new BTCC season will be contested on the short 1.2-mile Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch, with each contest to be screened live on ITV4 and streamed online at

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