Austin confident of podium chances
Toyota Avensis racer Rob Austin says Oulton Park Island Circuit, the venue for this coming weekend’s fourth race meeting of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season, will provide Handy Motorsport with one of its best opportunities of the year to challenge for podium glory. Off the back of achieving its most consistent points haul of the season just a week ago at Thruxton, the 2017 venue least suited to the Swindon squad’s car, confidence in the team is justifiably high ahead of the BTCC’s annual trip to Cheshire this weekend, 20th/21st May.
As well as racking up a brace of top five finishes as part of a hat-trick of top 10 results last time out, Austin also confirmed his increasing competitiveness in a front-wheel drive touring car by securing a fabulous fifth fastest time in qualifying at Thruxton. Having already achieved one pole position start this year, at Donington Park last month, Evesham driver Austin is confident more can follow and is determined to mount the strongest possible bid at Oulton Park’s undulating 2.23-mile track. Donington, which hosted the second event of the BTCC season, was also the venue for Handy’s maiden podium of 2017 and Austin likens the level of pace and performance the team displayed there to what he believes will be possible a few days from now.
“I’m really looking forward to Oulton”, said the Duo and Northgate backed racer, “I think it’ll be another strong circuit for us like Donington and I really will be trying to challenge for the front row on the grid in qualifying – I think that’s achievable. Oulton Park provides a great opportunity for us to score well and, hopefully, get back onto the podium so that’s what we’ll all be working towards. I really want to win a race, it’s been a long time. Oulton is a track which should suit our car so we’re all going there feeling positive, especially after the competitive showing we delivered at Thruxton which was our weakest track of the season.”
Going into the fourth event of 2017 Austin is ninth in the outright championship standings and inside the top four in the Independents Trophy. In the team battle, Handy Motorsport is sixth in the Independents chase and eighth in the overall championship.
Like Austin, team principal Simon Belcher is relishing rounds 10, 11 and 12 at Oulton Park and holds high hopes for the squad to make greater in-roads in the respective title races as well as mounting a major challenge for more silverware.
“Oulton should see us back to where we were at Donington”, he commented, “It’s much more suited to our Toyota than Thruxton was but, having said that, our results at Thruxton weren’t too shabby at all so we’ve got very high hopes for Oulton. Rob will obviously be 100% committed as always and the whole team is working as hard as ever to deliver a car which can challenge for the podium again.”