Different test awaits Austin at Thruxton - The Evesham Observer

Different test awaits Austin at Thruxton

Evesham Editorial 2nd May, 2017 Updated: 2nd May, 2017   0

ONE of the very best challenges on the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship calendar awaits Handy Motorsport this weekend, as the UK’s premier motorsport category heads to the team’s local track, ultra-fast Thruxton near Andover.

Handy, based just 30 miles away in nearby Swindon, go into the third event of the season buoyed by Rob Austin’s outstanding pole position qualifying performance last time out at Donington – the team’s first ever in touring cars – and an excellent podium finish for the Evesham driver.

Even so, the team are mindful Thruxton is not as suited to the strengths of the No 11 Toyota Avensis as Donington Park was, so a realistic approach is being adopted ahead of rounds seven, eight and nine in which Handy and Austin are targeting three consistently strong points results.

Relishing the BTCC’s annual visit to Thruxton, Austin, who has key headline backing from Duo and Northgate this season, is determined to deliver the strongest possible performance across all three races at a track where bravery and commitment play an even bigger role than usual.

“Thruxton is very different to any other track on the BTCC calendar. It’s very unique and I absolutely love it there – it’s fast and rewards bravery but you do need a good car under you,” commented the Worcestershire driver.

“I’ve been saying all year the top ten in qualifying would be a good result and we’ve done that twice so far at the first two meetings. Hopefully we can continue the run at Thruxton.

“It’s clear from the test day the other week some cars have an advantage, but we’ll be doing our best to bridge the gap with bravery and commitment.

“Three solid points finishes are the target. We haven’t had the best of luck so far in races two and three of a weekend but at some point that has to turn for us – hopefully this weekend at Thruxton!”

As well as being a venue which demands respect from the competitors, success at Thruxton can only be achieved with a car working well through the quickest parts of the track.

From the exit of the complex at Segrave into the left-hander at Noble, and then the awesome Goodwood, Village and Church sequence, set-up and balance are crucial as team boss Simon Belcher acknowledges.

“We’ve got to be realistic for Thruxton,” he said. “Pole position at Donington was great but we know Thruxton doesn’t suit our car as well, I think the Hondas will dominate. We should be able to challenge for a solid top ten in qualifying and, if that’s the case, hopefully we can put together three strong races for the first time this season.

“Our performance so far has been far better than our championship position suggests, so the target for Thruxton is to bag some big points. It’s a great circuit which demands commitment, but you also need the chassis to work well in order to be fast there and to be able to carry the speed through the key corners.

“You have to be brave, but you need the chassis to work for you as well.”

Notably, this weekend’s event at Thruxton is the first race meeting for the BTCC package since British Formula 4 driver Billy Monger suffered life-changing injuries in an accident at Donington Park.

In support of the 17-year-old and his rehabilitation, all BTCC cars at Thruxton will feature prominent #BillyWhizz signage.

Wishing to lend additional support, Handy Motorsport have also been running an online auction to help raise money for the special fund set up to assist the youngster’s recovery.

Offering a pair of VIP passes to this weekend’s event, including full team hospitality, a tour of the team garage and a grid walk for one of the BTCC races, the winning bid raised £1,102.

“What happened to Billy is devastating,” commented Belcher. “We wanted to try and do our bit to help raise funds for his recovery and rehabilitation, so we decided on the auction.

“It’s incredible to see how well the motorsport community has come together for Billy to try and help him in some way. Hearing how positively he’s responding to everything is amazing.”

British Touring Car Championship action at Thruxton commences with two free practice sessions and qualifying on Saturday. Rounds seven, eight and nine of the season will follow on Sunday at 12.10pm, 2.30pm and 5.15pm respectively and all three contests will be screened live on ITV4 and streamed live online at www.itv.com/btcc.

Austin is 13th in the championship with 29 points and eighth in the Independents Trophy standings with 44 points.

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