After Rob Austin claimed the first podium in the British Touring Car Championship for Handy Motorsport last time out at Snetterton, Team Principal Simon Belcher insists the objective for this weekend at Knockhill is to build upon that breakthrough result.
Austin claimed third in the final race of a chaotic weekend in Norfolk and successfully fended off Jason Plato to record his first trip to the podium since 2014, and the first trip in the history of Belcher’s Swindon-based outfit.
With some calling into question the potential of the Toyota Avensis package as long ago as the start of last season, the performances of Austin and Tom Ingram in particular have reinforced the strength of the model in the UK’s premier tin-top series in recent events.
Looking back briefly at the triple header at Snetterton, Belcher admitted the team had achieved their landmark result the difficult way, but was overjoyed at the performance of driver, car and engineering team.
“We’re all still on cloud nine after last weekend, what an amazing result”, said Belcher.
“We definitely did it the hard way after the problems in qualifying, but we all knew the car was quick – and everyone knows what Rob can do. He did a fantastic job, raced brilliantly, and the podium proved the potential that’s been there all season.”
Handy Motorsport first joined the BTCC at the start of 2014, with Belcher making the step up from the popular Renault Clio Cup feeder series to pilot the Avensis as a single-car entry.
Although 2014 proved to be a struggle for the fledgling outfit, including a heavy crash at Thruxton that necessitated a crowdfunding campaign to revive the season, a partnership with the more experienced Speedworks Motorsport has since paid dividends for the team.
Their first points came last season in the hands of Robb Holland whilst Belcher took a three-race sabbatical on financial grounds, and those performances have been backed up by Austin this season as he consistently adds to that total.
His placing of 15th in the Drivers championship with a total of 77 points is the highest a Handy Motorsport entry has run, with the team also running 10th in the HiQ Teams Championship and sixth in the Independent Teams category.
Looking ahead to the championship’s visit to Knockhill, Belcher admitted the changes in gradient, undulating surface and high kerbs provide an entirely different engineering challenge to Snetterton, but believes his team can add to their tally of strong results around the popular 1.27 mile circuit.
“Knockhill is a completely different challenge to Snetterton, and the rear-wheel drive cars do have an advantage there, but the goal is to build on everything we achieved last weekend.
“We are up for the challenge, and it’s always a bigger challenge for the front-wheel drive cars, but despite that we will fight as hard as we can for the best results possible – we’re really looking forward to it.”
The first race gets underway on Sunday at 11:50, with TouringCars.net on hand all weekend to provide full session reports, exclusive driver reactions and live updates via the website and social media feeds.