Handy Motorsport prepares to 2017 challenge
Six months since Handy Motorsport concluded its most successful season yet in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, the team is now eyeing its best ever start to a BTCC campaign when the 2017 season gets underway at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit next weekend, 1st/2nd April.
Excitement has certainly been building at the Swindon team in recent weeks, not least since the officially timed pre-season test at Donington Park National Circuit eight days ago where Rob Austin steered the No.11 Toyota Avensis to a magnificent top-two time. Fresh from that outstanding performance, which underlined how impressive the team’s pre-season preparations have been, Austin believes he has a car which will not only be capable of qualifying well but, most importantly, a car with consistent front-running race pace too.
“We’re confident we have a strong package, our Media Day performance on old tyres proved that we are in the ball park at least” – said the Evesham driver – “What we don’t know at this stage is what the BMWs, Subarus and Hondas are going to do and that will only become clear next weekend so there’s still a lot we don’t know at the minute. After struggling with right-rear tyre temperature in qualifying last year at Brands, I’m realistic about expectations. This grid is going to be extremely competitive so a lot will depend on who does the best all-round job on the day, who reads the track conditions the best as just one tyre pressure slightly out could mean the difference of five positions. I’ll be happy if we’re inside the top 10 in qualifying and we definitely have a package with the potential to do that. Race day is where I’m more confident and we will be targeting a solid points haul.”
Last season, Austin’s maiden campaign as part of Handy Motorsport and first competing with front-wheel drive, was a real breakthrough year for the team with three outright podium finishes and two Independents Trophy wins. The second half of the season, in particular, was where true progress began to be made after some difficulties during the early rounds when a direction on set-up ultimately proved to have been the wrong way to go. Austin is keen to point out, though, the experience gained during that time has all been crucial in delivering the team to the point it is at now after an impressive 2017 pre-season.
“A lot of where we went wrong last year was just down to a lack of experience, we chose the wrong tyre strategy in qualifying at Brands for a front-wheel drive car, but since then we’ve learnt a huge amount and we are a lot more confident this time round” – he added – “I think the year of experience I have with the Toyota now will be a massive benefit going into the first round, last year we perhaps underestimated how much we all had to learn. It’s not just a case of how to drive it fast, you need to max out every aspect. I’m confident we have a very good base to start from next weekend and feeling cautiously optimistic.”
The opening free practice session of the new BTCC season will get underway at 10.00 next Saturday, 1st April, at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit with session two set to start at 12.45 and qualifying scheduled to begin at 15.40.
On Sunday, 2nd April, round one will commence at 11.30, round two at approximately 14.15 and round three will conclude the day’s action at 17.10. All three races will be screened live on ITV4 and streamed online.
(Handy Motorsport Press Office)