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Simon Belcher: ‘We want to move to the next level’

Handy Motorsport’s Simon Belcher wants his team to ‘move to the next level’ with the signing of experienced British Touring Car Championship racer Rob Austin, with the outfit aiming for ‘giant-killing’ performances in 2016.

In a surprise move, Belcher has signed Austin to race the team’s brand-new Toyota Avensis for the 2016 season. Having competed predominantly as an owner-driver in 2014 and 2015, Belcher is now looking to take his young team to the next level.

“I’ve got two hats to wear; as the driver, which I love doing and I love being part of the British Touring Car Championship, but also as the team owner,” explained Belcher to TouringCars.Net. “We’ve invested a lot of money in infrastructure, facilities and trucks and everything to become part of this championship, but we really want to move to the next level. We want to become more of a force to be reckoned with in the paddock, and we want to become a multi-car outfit with two or three cars; that’s very much the aspiration that we’ve got.

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“To do that, I wanted to get a driver on board that’s capable of winning races. There’s a whole queue of people who want to join the BTCC, and a lot of those are investments for the future which are great, but that doesn’t suit where we are now.

“We need a proven, race-winning driver and to get Rob on board is absolutely fantastic. I don’t think we could have found a better driver to bring in and be part of the team.

“He’s got a fantastic following, very loyal fans, and right from day one when me and Rob sat down in September, our ambitions really matched, and I think we probably both went to the first meeting [afterwards] with Rob going ‘do I want to go with Handy Motorsport’ and us going ‘do we want to go with Rob Austin’. We were sat down for five minutes talking, and we both immediately knew that this was absolutely going to be the perfect relationship going forward.

“We were almost wanting to take all of the best bits of Rob Austin Racing and bring them into Handy Motorsport. Coupled with what we’ve got, our plans, our development that we’ve got going on for the future, the whole thing was just going to be a perfect match and it just made the whole thing so easy.”

Austin, who experienced his first season without a podium finish to his name in 2015, added that he would still be keeping elements of his outfit with him for the coming season.

“It’s a big old change for me,” said Austin to TouringCars.Net. “We’ve been running my team for over a decade now, and grown it all the way from a single Ginetta G20 doing track days up to a race-winning British Touring Car team. But we were starting to struggle with the Audis, which we made quite clear last year, and we weren’t going to have the opportunity to really make big progressions.

“When this opportunity came about and I went for a meeting with Simon, his long-term plans for the future are very, very exciting and it was an opportunity where I wasn’t just taking sponsors and going just as a driver, we were joining as a team.

“We’re part of the team; it’s still going to be the same guys on my car as I’ve had for as long as I can remember, Lucy [Austin’s wife] is still going to be helping with the hospitality, and my Dad will still help, and it will still be the RAR team behind it. This side of it is just under a different sign above the door, basically.”

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