After securing Handy Motorsport’s best-ever finish in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch last weekend by virtue of a solid recovery drive from 30th to 14th in race two, Rob Austin was pleased with the performance of both the team and his new Toyota Avensis, and believes the team can make gains heading to Donington.
Austin was forced to retire from the opening round of the new season with damage after being hit side-on and sustaining exhaust damage, but the two-time race winner carved his way through the field in the second contest and brought home a brace of points for Simon Belcher’s outfit.
The Evesham-based racer expressed his disappointment and believes that initial incident had a knock-on effect for the rest of the weekend.
“Race one was my first start in front-wheel drive and my first lap in front-wheel drive, I was just trying to keep my lines tight and maintain my position but it puts you back in the pack and things can happen”, he explained.
“One car went into the side of me and folded-up the exhaust, we were in a straight line so I’ve no idea where he came from, and I’ve no idea what happened then in the second one. I was quite a long way down the back straight and just got an almighty wallop in the side. It’s a real shame as the car was mega and that had a knock-on then with the grid position for race two.”
After his race two resurgence, the team ran the softer Dunlop compound tyre during the third and final contest, and Austin was pleased to find himself able to compete with the works outfits, a far cry from the performance that Handy Motorsport have become accustomed to in their first two seasons.
“Race two was obviously really good, from 30th to 14th wasn’t bad going and we had a bit of understeer to cope with too”, reflected Austin, “I was hoping to go forward a bit more in race three, we changed the car to look after the Softs but we didn’t quite go far enough. We showed we had the pace to fight with the works Hondas and MGs though which is obviously very good.
As the circus heads next to Donington Park over the weekend of 16th-17th April, Austin believes there is more performance to come and is looking forward to making amends during qualifying.
“Personally, the really positive thing to consider is when we did a bad job this weekend we were 15th in qualifying – last year in the Audi I was 15th when I did a good job. I’m really happy with the car, the team has done a fantastic job all weekend and now we need to make sure we get qualifying right at Donington.”