HANDY Motorsport driver Rob Austin heads to Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire this weekend with a burning desire to rediscover his impressive early and mid-season form as the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship enters its final phase.
With only two race meetings remaining this year, including the upcoming visit to the home of British motor racing, the squad and ultra-popular Evesham driver Austin are aiming to put recent frustrations behind them to end their final season with the No 11 Toyota Avensis on a high.
Before opening an exciting new chapter next year by bringing Alfa Romeo back to the BTCC through a key partnership with the Alfa Romeo Dealer Council, first Handy has some unfinished business with the Avensis which Austin has taken to Independents Trophy victory and outright podium glory this year.
Rewind to the end of the first half of the championship at Croft in June, Austin was a mere three points shy of the top of the Independents Trophy standings and he also held eighth in the outright title battle – within touching distance of the coveted top six. Handy were very well placed in the Independents Team Trophy too at that point, equal third.
Ahead of the penultimate event of the current campaign though, after some horrendous misfortune in recent rounds, Worcestershire’s Austin is 12th in the main BTCC title race and sixth in the Independents, but absolutely determined to rack up the points at Silverstone.
During the corresponding race meeting last year, the Handy Motorsport package was extremely competitive. Qualifying sixth fastest, just a couple of tenths of a second shy of pole position, Austin raced to a fantastic top three finish in the opening encounter.
“We obviously had podium pace at Silverstone last year and we’ll be looking to deliver the same sort of performance at the weekend,” said the Duo and Northgate-supported racer.
“I know we have a strong all-round package and the Toyota is slippery through the air, which is important at Silverstone with a lot of the lap being straight.
“We know we’re good in the quick corners, like Copse, so on paper we have a good opportunity to get back to the sharp end. We’ll have to see where we stand with the Subarus and Fords with top speed as they’ve been blessed with some extra boost, but we think we’ll be strong.”
The past two race meetings have undoubtedly been frustrating, to say the very least, with the most recent event at Rockingham a fortnight ago compounding the misfortune which has impacted the second half of Handy’s season.
Sustaining costly punctures in races one and two, in the third contest a misfire left the team justifiably exasperated.
In the face of the bad luck which first began during race three at Snetterton at the end of July when Austin was shunted into retirement, everyone at Handy Motorsport has remained fully focused on the job in hand and the desire to return to the podium is now stronger than ever.
Austin added: “We’ve had such a torrid time over the past few rounds and I know the boys have been working incredibly hard on the car.
“In race two at Rockingham, after we fitted the fresh tyre following the puncture, we were the quickest car on the circuit so we know the pace is there. I think we’ve got the car to be competitive at Silverstone and to get back where we should be.”
Opening BTCC practice will take place at 9.30am on Saturday, with session two beginning at 12.45pm and qualifying – which will be streamed live online at www.itv.com/btcc – following at 3.45pm.
On Sunday, round 25 will begin at around 11.55am, round 26 is set to start at 2.30pm and round 27 ends the day’s track action at 5.20pm. All three races will be streamed live online and broadcast on ITV4.