Austin taking 'high hopes' into second half of season - The Evesham Observer

Austin taking 'high hopes' into second half of season

Evesham Editorial 23rd Jul, 2018   0

BRITISH Touring Car Championship team DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing will go into the second half of the 2018 season at Snetterton 300 Circuit this weekend with high hopes after a strong two-day test outing at the Norfolk track last week.

Joining its BTCC rivals for the annual Dunlop tyre test, the Swindon team and Evesham driver Rob Austin made good progress with the No 11 Alfa Romeo Giulietta and ended the two days happy with their development.

On day one, Austin completed the two sessions sixth overall on combined times with a best lap of 1m57.120 seconds (91.25mph) – which made him the third fastest of the non-Honda Civic runners – and the Worcestershire racer continued to lap competitively on day two.

Ending Thursday morning’s run 12th overall, with a time of 1m57.391 seconds (91.04mph), in the afternoon he returned to the top six in that session with a slight improvement of 1m57.242 seconds (91.16mph), just shy of his Wednesday best.

“The tyre test was very productive for us”, said Austin, “It gave us opportunity to try lots of things we haven’t had chance to so far and learn what these changes do.

“We didn’t have the eureka moment we were perhaps hoping for, but the pace in the car is very strong and we are in a good place as a team entering the second half of the season.”

As well as marking the start of the second half of the 2018 campaign, this weekend’s meeting at Snetterton will also be notable for the special ‘Diamond Double’ race which has been organised as part of the BTCC’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

The third of the event’s three races, round 18, will be contested over a distance of 60 miles and will therefore be around double the usual duration. Notably, all competitors will run ballast-free, there will be a standalone qualifying session and the race will award double championship points.

“I have high hopes for Snetterton and with good reason”, commented Austin, “We may not have had great results this year overall, but initially we were in a development process and for the last three events we have had a very competitive car that should have been on the podium a number of times.

“It’s no secret we’ve had the most horrific luck I have ever experienced in my 27 years of racing. I’m the sort of guy who believes you make your own luck normally, but the issues that have held us back have been completely out of my hands – even with the benefit of hindsight there is nothing I can put them down to other than just really bad luck! I’m hoping Snetterton can be a turning point.”

He added: “The 60-mile race could be interesting. I expect it to be won by a RWD car but I am looking forward to the challenge. Fitness will play a part, especially in the heat we’ve been having, but I am better prepared than I ever have been with that.

“As I like a very over-steery car, we have traditionally been very kind to our tyres compared to others so, potentially, it could be good for us.”

Following the visit to Snetterton last week, Austin and his DUO, Northgate and Close Brothers-backed Alfa Romeo headed to the world-famous Goodwood Festival of Speed, in the grounds of Goodwood House in West Sussex, for the 25th anniversary staging of the event last weekend.

Taking part in the specially organised ‘BTCC Shoot-Out’, Austin – making his first appearance at Goodwood – took to the 1.16-mile hill climb course to give the tens of thousands of fans a close-up view of his glorious Alfa Romeo.

“Goodwood was a fantastic event and one I would like to do again, but be a little more prepared for,” reflected Austin.

“I didn’t have chance to do any prep work and had literally no idea which way the course went and, to compound that, we weren’t able to do a lot of the running.

“So, I just took it easy on the two runs we did and kept it out of the wall. I’d love to have a proper run next year!”

Austin sits 17th in the BTCC standings and eighth in the independents.

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