Strong two-day test leaves Austin purring - The Evesham Observer

Strong two-day test leaves Austin purring

Evesham Editorial 22nd Feb, 2017 Updated: 22nd Feb, 2017   0

CHESHIRE’S undulating Oulton Park was the venue for the start of Handy Motorsport’s pre-season Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship testing programme, providing Rob Austin’s first mileage of the year in the team’s newly-built Toyota Avensis.

Following the squad’s high-profile 2017 launch at last month’s Autosport International Show, last week’s two-day running went extremely well as the Evesham fan favourite completed more than 100 laps.

Swindon-based Handy Motorsport, which is heading into its fourth year in the UK’s biggest and best motor racing championship, has been working tirelessly over recent weeks and months to ensure it is in the strongest possible shape for the coming touring car campaign.

The fruits of that labour were clear to see at Oulton Park as, not only was the Toyota quick and well balanced straight out of the box, the car has actually been completed ahead of schedule, giving Austin the best possible start to his second season in Handy colours.

“The two days at Oulton went very well,” said the 36-year-old.

“The boys have made a beautiful job of building the car, it’s ahead of schedule and absolutely immaculate as you would expect from the Handy Motorsport team.

“The weather hindered our track time a little, but we anticipated that by booking two days rather than just one. Out of the box the car was much more hooked up than when we raced here last year and that served as a great example of the progress we made through the second half of 2016.”

As well as marking the maiden run-out for Handy’s new car, the test was also the first opportunity for Austin and the squad to experience the new Dunlop rubber which has been introduced for the coming season.

Dunlop’s new Sport Maxx BTCC tyres are not only larger – with a 20mm width increase – the new construction is also expected to deliver significantly increased grip and traction.

Austin added: “It’s a really nice tyre, full credit to Dunlop for all of their hard work developing it. We completed a good number of laps, worked through our carefully planned programme and we certainly left Oulton with the feeling we have continued on the steep development curve we were on through the second half of the 2016 season.

“It’s got me very excited for the start of the season, the car feels strong and well balanced and I’m feeling very confident about going up against the rest of the field.

“Brands (Hatch – venue for the championship curtain-raiser on April 1/2) can’t come soon enough! Before then we have a very comprehensive test schedule organised and a lot of developments to continue working on.”

While pre-season testing continues for Handy Motorsport over the coming weeks, the first and only ‘official’ group test prior to the opening weekend of the season will come during the annual Media Day at Donington Park on Thursday, March 16.

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