Learning Curve

  • By Rob Austin
  • 09 Nov, 2016

My first blog of 2016

Hi, and welcome to my first blog post of 2016. I will be doing these after every round for HiQ, as I did last year, so I hope you enjoy them.
Those who follow me on facebook (@robaustinracing) or Twitter (@robertoaustini) will know that I’ve had quite a change over the winter. For those who perhaps haven’t kept up, 2016 sees my team merging with Handy Motorsport. I have taken key members of my staff with me and we’re running in their brand new Toyota Avensis for the 2016 season.
This has meant that I’ve had some work to do over the winter – in my 25 years of racing I have only actually competed in three races in a front-wheel drive racing car! Going from the left hand, rear-wheel drive, heavy and long wheel base Audi, which I have driven for my own team for the last five seasons in the BTCC, to the right hand, front-wheel drive, super light, short wheelbase Toyota with a new team and an all new suspension package, has been quite a transition!
It has, however, gone extremely well. Simon Belcher (Team Manager of Handy Motorsport) and all the guys at Handy are absolutely great to work with, and everything and everyone has really gelled. The car is fantastic and I have adapted well in pre-season testing, so everything is in place for a great season.
So Brands Hatch earlier this month was my first race weekend with my all-new surroundings, and frustratingly we made a critical error on the setup of the car that cost us the results we were aiming for.
Tom Ingram and I have been very evenly matched throughout testing, with no more than a tenth separating us at most tests and both teams have been pushing each other on setup and development.
Unfortunately we made some crucial setup changes to our car for Saturday and... well... we cocked up! We went the wrong way and left ourselves struggling to generate rear tyre temperature and only able to qualify in 15th position. With 22 cars within a second of each other the smallest thing can make a big difference to your grid position.
We took the obvious route for Sunday and bolted Tom’s setup on overnight and we were looking forward to working our way forward on Sunday. Unfortunately when you qualify out of position it puts you in the reach of the more frantic drivers and staying out of trouble becomes something that sometimes you just have no influence over at all. For example, my exhaust was run over on lap one of the first race and that was the end of that.
Race two was a little more interesting, we started 31st due to our race one DNF and all of my focus was on getting to the top ten. As the race got going it became apparent that the car still wasn’t right and I was battling with bags of understeer. Still to charge through to finish 14th, just behind Jason Plato, was a great result and one which won us the Dunlop #ForeverForward award for the most overtakes over the weekend.
We made some changes to the balance of the car for race three, which was again a learning experience. We had hopes of moving well into the top ten but we still had the understeer, and with the soft tyres on I had to be very careful behind the wheel to ensure they lasted the distance. That meant we couldn’t make the strides we had hoped to, but at least we had made the best of what we had and picked up some valuable points.
It turned out that we had one small setting wrong on the car all weekend, which unfortunately made a big difference, but all-in-all we learnt a lot.
With that knowledge under our belt I am sure we will be able to put on a much better show at Donington this weekend. We were third there at the official pre-season test, so with the experience of Brands and the car now in a great place we are hoping for big things.

Rob Austin
By Rob Austin 12 May, 2017
What’s that I hear you say? “what’s your take on the Thruxton safety issues Rob?” well ok, I’ll tell you.

I’ve read all sorts of nonsense about this and to be honest it straight up pisses me off! Especially when they say that “all” the drivers complained, because I didn’t!

I, like many (even the ones complaining about it) love Thruxton and don’t want to see a chicane being put in there or it removed from the BTCC calendar. So it makes me wonder what those people are hoping to achieve by publicly complaining about the run off at Church, because literally all their efforts can lead to is increasing public pressure on the circuit to put a chicane in or TOCA to remove Thruxton from the calendar.
“They just want to see safety improvements at Church” yeah, but they can and that’s the problem. The barrier is now at the same level as the circuit and nolonger covered by trees so it’s a lot more obvious and looks closer even though its not. Besides, what do they think is happening? After 2015 when we saw two cars go over that wall it suddenly became very clear that something needed to be done, the easiest, quickest and cheapest solution would be to add a chicane. But the management at Thruxton are racers and they knew that literally no one wanted to see that so instead they went to work at the daunting task of raising the hundreds of thousands of pounds required to update the run off area to suit modern motorsport. They then implemented plans to literally move the earth (well, many many tons of it anyway) to raise the run off to the point it is now.

Just imagine how much material is required to raise that whole area of land 10ft… it’s not the work of a moment! Neither is dealing with councils and planning authorities. In my personal experience my family owned a plot of land and it took us 7 years of relentlessly trying before the authorities let us knock down the derelict old house that was on it to build something liveable in its place, Thruxton have been very efficient in overcoming huge planning issues extremely quickly.

As it stands now the barrier is the same distance from the track that it was, it’s just a lot higher so it’s a good step forward and work will continue. More earth is being moved so the run off will become uphill additionally there will be a lot more of it as well because the barrier will move another 50m further back. By the time we come back next year it will be safe as houses.

This was and is happening anyway, regardless of people moaning that it’s not good enough yet, and yes I hear you “why didn’t they have a tyre wall there” well I wouldn’t want to hit a tyre wall at a 45 degree angle nose first (which would be the likely result of a tyre blow out) I would much rather slide down the Armco then undergo the forces that a tyre wall would incur, thankfully the MSA agree.

What about a street race? Lots of people would love to see a BTCC street race and I think it would be popular with the drivers as well, I personally would love the championship to do a one-off event at Macau. This has made me wonder why. At Macau every other corner is a Church corner, insanely fast, bumpy, no room for error and you’re not just going to “have an off” no, if you make a mistake it’s only going to be a big one! So, is it the danger that’s appealing? Is it that extra bit of bravery that’s required, that extra bit of adrenaline? Whatever it is, if street circuits are OK then why is Church such a big deal when you actually have a relatively large margin for error there.
Having said all that I do really feel for Dan [Lloyd], that was in no way his fault or avoidable by him and it was the worst possible scenario. But that can happen at lots of places on UK circuits, check out my effort https://youtu.be/hLlnG1N8i1U

The work is happening anyway, next year it will be fine but I wonder if those who are so quick to criticise the circuit will stop, as I will, and say thank you to the Thruxton management, thank you for going above and beyond to improve safety for us and in doing so saving one of the greatest corners in the UK.
By Rob Austin 31 Mar, 2017
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship fan-favourite racer Rob Austin, who is already well known for his creative motorsport sponsorship initiatives, today, Friday, 31st March, launches another engaging enterprise in the form of soft drinks company Talent Drinks.
Handy Motorsport racer Austin, who famously established the hugely popular RAR Owners Club and, more recently, RAR BTCC Business Network, is rightly excited by the launch of the business which will get its public unveiling at the BTCC season curtain-raiser this weekend at Brands Hatch.

Talent Drinks, whose first product is a Lime and Mango flavour Energy Water with Ginseng, Sweeteners and B Vitamins, hopes to engage motorsport fans directly for all aspects of the company’s development.

This will include the introduction of future products, where the drinks are sold and which racers the company will sponsor. Excitingly, Talent Drinks will make VIP hospitality, among many other benefits, available to fans through a monthly competition. Initially Talent Drinks will be available direct to consumers with delivery to their home or work place.

Austin co-founded Talent Drinks with his Commercial Manager, Daniel Welling, who will run the commercial side of the business – leaving Austin free to capitalise on what looks to be a promising season in the BTCC! As they identify future Talent Drinks athletes, Austin will take a key role in their development both on and off the track.

“For the past couple of years I have become more and more health conscious, the more work I do at Freestyle 360 the more I want to maximise the rewards from the effort I put in”, commented Austin, “The more I looked, the more I realised there is practically nothing out there that isn’t full of refined sugar, preservatives or other chemicals…it’s crazy how it’s allowed!

“So, when Daniel came to me with this idea I was immediately onboard. It’s a healthy, tasty and good value product that ties in perfectly with our unique and mould-breaking outlook on fan engagement and interaction. I think it’s a great idea and I’m really looking forward to seeing what people think of it.”

Daniel Welling added: “The idea for Talent Drinks developed during last year, and we only really made the decision to go for it in January, so to be ready for the start of the season has been a massive, yet rewarding. task.
“We felt strongly we had a great fan base who we knew would support the right soft drink, and saw an opportunity to close the sponsorship loop and become sponsors ourselves, gaining control over our own and other racers – over time – commercial and sporting development.
“We just had to make the idea a reality and can’t wait for this weekend’s opening BTCC round at Brands Hatch, where we will have a trade stand [behind the Brabham Straight] and will be sampling our new product and engaging with our fans.”

Find out more at the Talent Drinks website www.talentdrinks.com
By Rob Austin 24 Mar, 2017
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, which will be streamed live online HERE, 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.
By Rob Austin 17 Mar, 2017
Rob Austin underlined Handy Motorsport’s clear potential for the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season with an outstanding performance during officially timed testing at Donington Park on Thursday, 16th March – the eagerly awaited launch day for the 2017 campaign.

Joining 29 of the other competitors confirmed for this year’s BTCC, which gets underway at Brands Hatch in Kent two weeks from now, Evesham driver Austin worked conscientiously through the team’s planned programme and the end result of second fastest confirmed pre-season pace.

At the wheel of his striking Toyota Avensis, which this year carries headline sponsorship from Duo and Northgate, the 36-year-old posted a best lap of 1m10.109 seconds which placed him a mere 0.1 seconds shy of the top spot on the timesheets for Swindon-based Handy.

“Donington has been a good indicator, but it’s by no means the full picture”, reflected Austin, “We were confident we had good pace in the car and the test proved it, but I know there’s no way all of the works Hondas, Subarus and BMWs will be outside the top 10 come Brands, as they were at Media Day.

“Our plan was to just go about our test programme as though nobody was watching and at the end of the day see how we stacked up. To be P2 was a pleasant surprise considering I had made such a mess of our new tyre run that we had actually set our fastest time of the day on old tyres, so there was plenty left on the table.”

As ever during the annual pre-season launch at Donington Park, the day began with a range of media activities and interviews with competitors taking to the track in the afternoon for the only collective test ahead of the opening race weekend.

With just a couple of red flag stoppages during the test, when rival cars needed to be retrieved following incidents, a largely unbroken four-hour block of testing gave Handy Motorsport the opportunity to undertake a lot of mileage where race set-up was the paramount consideration.

Team principal Simon Belcher added: “We ran the hard tyres mostly, did a lot of laps on those and only did one new tyre run, so to be P2 we’re happy with that. There was more time to be had but there are no prizes for the test day, it’s in a couple of weeks where that counts.

“We focused on a lot of longer runs and everything is looking really good ahead of Brands, it’s confirmed what we thought during the pre-season. Overall for the day we’re really happy and very excited ahead of the first round.”

While mindful the pecking order at the end of Media Day won’t necessarily translate to the eventual order at Brands Hatch a fortnight from now, Austin says he is very confident his Toyota Avensis has the capability to qualify and, more importantly, race very competitively to mount a big challenge.

“I’m certainly confident going to Brands”, he commented, “I’ll try to qualify on pole, of course, but this is an extremely competitive year and cannot be underestimated, so realistically I will be happy as long as we can qualify in the top 10. We’ve developed an extremely strong race car and I believe that if we can start in the top 10 on Saturday then we will be set for a very exciting Sunday.”

Rounds one, two and three of the new BTCC season will be contested on the short 1.2-mile Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch over the weekend 1st/2nd April with each contest to be screened live on ITV4 and streamed online at www.itv.com/btcc
By Rob Austin 14 Mar, 2017

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship team Handy Motorsport heads to Donington Park next Thursday for the annual ‘Media Day’ in justifiably buoyant mood, following a highly encouraging series of pre-season tests over the course of the past three weeks.

Star driver Rob Austin, who heads into his second season behind the wheel of the Swindon squad’s potent Toyota Avensis and his seventh BTCC campaign in total, has put serious mileage on the car at both Brands Hatch in Kent, the venue for the opening three races, and Cheshire’s Oulton Park.

With multiple visits to both tracks, Handy Motorsport has been working hard to not only fine-tune the development process of its 2017 challenger, but to also learn as much as possible about the new Dunlop tyre compound which has been introduced ahead of the new season.

Evesham-based Austin, who steered Handy to its first ever outright BTCC podiums and Independents Trophy class victories in 2016, says he has never been as well prepared for a touring car season and cannot wait to join the remainder of the grid at Donington Park next week for Media Day.

“I’m really, really happy with how testing has gone and I’m in a very good place”, he said, “We already know we have fantastic partners on board with Duo and Northgate, as well as our other great sponsors, and I’m absolutely loving working with the Handy Motorsport guys – the Toyota has been running very well indeed.

“I’ve never done so many miles pre-season and we’ve learnt a lot about the new Dunlop tyre, we’ve got a good handle on things for qualifying and in race trim and I’m confident we’re developing a strong all around package.

“We’ve enjoyed across the board improvements in testing, mainly focusing on fewer circuits like Oulton and Brands so there are less variables, although we have this week had a run at Snetterton too which offered something new for us.”

Following the annual pre-season ‘Media Day’ next Thursday, 16th March, which provides the only officially timed collective test before the championship curtain-raiser, the opening three rounds of the new BTCC campaign will take place over the weekend 1st/2nd April at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit.

“Going into the new season I’d say I’m quietly confident”, added Austin, “I know how competitive this championship is, this will be my seventh year in the BTCC, and the depth of competition gets deeper and deeper every season. I’m not setting any expectations specifically, but we’re definitely in a good position to put up a damn good fight!”

Team principal Simon Belcher, who will this year combine his duties in the BTCC paddock and the day-to-day running of Handy Motorsport with participation in the British Jet Sport Championship, is equally satisfied with the pre-season touring car preparation.

“Things are progressing nicely”, said Belcher, “I am trying to make sure we are the most prepared ever for this season, and I am delighted how the team has gelled together and embraced the move of our whole operation to Swindon over the winter.

“I can really see we are starting to get the best out of Rob as a driver, and I think we are in for a strong season. He has hardly put a foot wrong throughout our testing program and is looking very comfortable tin the car.”

By Rob Austin 17 Feb, 2017
•   Smooth first test outing of 2017 pleases Handy Motorsport
•   Rapid touring car ace Rob Austin praises ‘immaculate’ Toyota Avensis
•   Oulton Park run triggers start of comprehensive pre-season programme

Cheshire’s undulating Oulton Park was the venue for the start of Handy Motorsport’s pre-season Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship testing programme this week, providing Rob Austin’s first mileage of the year in the team’s newly built Toyota Avensis.

Following the squad’s high-profile 2017 launch at last month’s Autosport International Show, this week’s running – on Tuesday, 14th February, and Wednesday, 15th February – went extremely well with the Evesham fan-favourite completing over 100 laps.

Swindon-based Handy Motorsport, which is heading into its fourth year in the UK’s biggest and best motor racing championship, has been working tirelessly over recent weeks and months to ensure it is in the strongest possible shape for the coming touring car campaign.

The fruits of that labour were clear to see at Oulton Park – not only was the Toyota quick and well balanced straight out of the box, the car has actually been completed ahead of schedule giving Austin the best possible start to his second season in Handy colours.

“The two days at Oulton went very well”, he reflected, “The boys have made a beautiful job of building the car, its ahead of schedule and absolutely immaculate as you would expect from the Handy Motorsport team.

“The weather hindered our track time a little, but we anticipated that by booking two days rather than just one. Out of the box the car was much more hooked up than when we raced here last year and that served as a great example of the progress we made through the second half of 2016.”

As well as marking the maiden run-out for Handy’s new car, the test was also the first opportunity for Austin and the squad to experience the new Dunlop rubber which has been introduced for the coming season. Dunlop’s new Sport Maxx BTCC tyres are not only larger, with a 20mm width increase, the new construction is also expected to deliver significantly increased grip and traction.

Austin commented: “It’s a really nice tyre, full credit to Dunlop for all of their hard work developing it. We completed a good number of laps, worked through our carefully planned programme and we certainly left Oulton with the feeling we have continued on the steep development curve we were on through the second half of the 2016 season.

“It’s got me very excited for the start of the season, the car feels strong and well balanced and I’m feeling very confident about going up against the rest of the field. Brands [Hatch – venue for the championship curtain raiser on 1st/2nd April] can’t come soon enough! Before then we have a very comprehensive test schedule organised and a lot of developments to continue working on.”

While pre-season testing continues for Handy Motorsport over the coming weeks, the first and only ‘official’ group test prior to the opening weekend of the season will come during the annual ‘Media Day’ at Donington Park on Thursday, 16th March.

By Rob Austin 01 Feb, 2017
Evesham racer Rob Austin will swap his rapid Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Toyota Avensis for a potent Vauxhall Tigra ‘Hot Rod’ this summer, having confirmed his participation in the standalone Hot Rod National Championship at Hednesford Hills on 5th/6th August.

Handy Motorsport’s Austin, who is to mount a sustained front-running challenge in the BTCC this year during his second season with the Swindon team, has taken up the invitation from Hot Rod racer Mikey Godfrey to return to the category after a star appearance in 2015.

Austin, a two-time race winner in touring cars, took part in the one-off Motorsport News Trophy event a couple of years ago where he was one of six BTCC drivers competing in a special 10 lap dash at Spedeworth Motorsports in Ipswich, the curtain-raiser for the Thunder 500 Trophy.

Thoroughly enjoying his first ever outing in Hot Rods, Austin went on to compete in the remainder of the race meeting after Godfrey lent the BTCC fan-favourite his Tigra. Now, he’s relishing the chance to be back in action among the thrills and spills of Hot Rods.

“The National Hot Rod races are like BTCC races but without left-handers”, explained Austin, “They are close and action packed but, most of all, they are great fun so I’m really pleased to be invited back for another go. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in.”

Mikey Godfrey added: “Rob loved his run in my car before and this was a chance to let him have another go. The Nationals is a strong event and he will be up against some top drivers, but he knows the cars and the formula now so I think he will have a great time. It will be rather odd watching from the sidelines and seeing someone go round in ‘my’ car though!”

Austin’s eclectic 2017 of track exploits got underway in victorious fashion at the recent Autosport International Show at Birmingham NEC. In the ‘Live Action Arena’, the Worcestershire racer was the fastest of a dozen BTCC drivers in a specially organised time trial.

Paired head-to-head, the participants put Ginetta GT4 Supercup cars through their paces in front of thousands of spectators and Austin emerged on top with a best time of 36.200 seconds – over 0.6 seconds faster than his closest challenger, former BTCC Champion Colin Turkington.

The 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season will get underway over the weekend 1st/2nd April at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent. The annual ‘Media Day’ launch will take place at Donington Park in Leicestershire on Thursday, 16th March.


Note to editors:
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Official Websites: www.robaustin.com   www.handymotorsport.co.uk


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Media Contact:
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By Rob Austin 20 Jan, 2017
So it’s 2017, and here at Handy Motorsport we consider the Autosport International Show the start of our season. It’s our deadline for when we have to have everything in place and the car in its final stages of preparation before pre-season testing begins.

All the public see is us taking a cover off our shiny new car and not everyone knows the work that goes in to getting it to that point. So I thought I would share with you a little bit about my role on the run up to the Autosport International show.

For me, I have been working through 2016 and intensely since the season came to an end on getting the commercial side of our 2017 season in place. It’s a big budget to run a BTCC car, but going in to our second season with Handy Motorsport and having not once considered changing my surroundings has allowed us to be better prepared than last year and I was very excited to show off all our hard work at ASI.

To have retained our long-standing support from DUO, as well as many other partners, is great news. It means that we have given them a return on their investment and done a good job for them through the 2016 season. We are very privileged to have such fantastic long-standing support but it was also very rewarding to welcome our new partner, Northgate Vehicle Hire , and we are looking forward to building a long and successful relationship with them.

Sponsorship is far from just a sticker on a car. There is a huge amount of work that goes in to the presentations, PR plans and constructing a package that will work for any individual sponsor and there are many elements to that.

So once we have great partners onboard we then have to come up with a great colour scheme, something else that I think people don’t always appreciate is actually a very involved process. It takes a huge amount of time (and work) to get something that looks good, that the fans will like but also its got to give the sponsors good coverage. Once all our sponsors have approved the design the graphic on the screen needs to be converted to full size and applied to the car. That was skillfully done by another long-term partner of ours Finch Signs who, I think, made a stunning job of it.

With all that in place its all about the press releases, getting each release approved and keeping in touch with the key media outlets we work with to coordinate timings and to ensure maximum exposure for our partners.

It’s my job to do the deals with our partners, agree positioning, get approvals for the colour scheme, oversee the application of our design, get approvals and manage changes to the press releases. We have to liaise with Dunlop and BTCC to organise the car on the stand and PR activities surrounding the show and, in between all of that, I have been driving the lorry transporting the car to all these places. The final stop being the NEC where I then have four days of PR commitments surrounded by meetings with suppliers. After returning the car to Swindon on Sunday night I took Monday off…

If my only job was to drive the car life would be far too easy. Having said that though, when we were running the Audis with my own team life was a lot tougher! I had to do all that I am currently doing but I was also doing Simon’s job as well and had to worry about the day to day running of the workshop, managing cash flow, accounts, parts, staff and the million and one things that go with that job.

That leads me on to my thoughts on our 2017 season. With all I had to do for the five seasons we ran the Audis, combined with the fact that they were too long and heavy to be truly competitive I have always felt that I’ve never been able to give it 100 per cent. I used to be telling our apprentice to tuck his shirt in over the radio while the boys were changing my tyres in qualifying; there’s no way I could focus fully on one thing. Last year was obviously a big learning year, a massive change in environment and machinery. We learnt a huge amount and got to grips with it all in the end.

My point being that every year in the BTCC so far I have felt like I’ve been fighting with one arm tied behind my back but, for 2017, we have a great car, team, sponsors and I am happier, fitter and more motivated than ever before!

I think we have a fantastic opportunity to do a very good job this year and I expect that we will surprise a few people.
Then there’s 2018 and onwards, I am already working with Simon on new projects and a much bigger long-term plan so watch this space, we are on a mission!

For now though, we were the first to get the new 2017 Swindon tuned TOCA engine so once that’s installed we are looking forward to getting out testing and working hard to ensure we live up to my high expectations for the season ahead.
By Rob Austin 12 Jan, 2017

• Rob Austin secures major new sponsorship deal with Northgate Vehicle Hire
• Handy Motorsport unveils striking new livery for Austin’s Toyota at ASI
• BTCC front-runners say all pieces of jigsaw in place for big 2017 challenge

Touring car ace Rob Austin and Handy Motorsport team principal Simon Belcher unveiled the squad’s stunning new livery for 2017 at the Autosport International Show this morning, Thursday, 12th January, confirming new commercial partner Northgate Vehicle Hire.

Taking the covers off the team’s Toyota Avensis on the official Dunlop BTCC stand during the first morning of the annual motorsport extravaganza at Birmingham’s NEC, the reveal highlighted the exciting multi-year partnership Northgate is embarking on with Evesham driver Austin.

“I’ve been really looking forward to revealing the car and showing the world the results of all the hard work we have put in since the 2016 season ended”, commented Austin, “The car is, as usual, immaculately prepared and ahead of schedule. The striking new livery looks fantastic I think and, most importantly, it is fantastically supported!

“New for this year we are very proud to announce a major sponsorship deal with Northgate Vehicle Hire. The BTCC serves as the perfect platform for a national marketing campaign for the growing van hire company. We also have continued support from Close Brothers, Kerax, Rocwood, Webb, Cobra Seats, Alsa and many others.”

Northgate Vehicle Hire is the leading light commercial vehicle (LCV) rental business by fleet size in the UK, providing a complete LCV rental service with predictable weekly costs, saving customers money on the total cost of ownership. Northgate’s UK national branch network hosts 73 locations, 50 wholly-owned workshops and local dedicated account teams, all committed to delivering the full range of services to keep customers on the road.

Northgate Vehicle Hire Managing Director, Eddie Aston, said: “We are looking forward to 2017 and the Northgate Vehicle Hire sponsorship of Rob Austin and the Handy Motorsport team. This is an important partnership for Northgate that enables us to share the excitement of motorsport with our customers and employees, many of whom are already enthusiasts. The close proximity of the races to our branch network is helpful for our local customers as is the ability to experience vehicle performance and safety management of the highest standards.”

With everything in place for Austin’s second BTCC campaign with Swindon-based Handy Motorsport, driver and team are looking forward to mounting a consistent front-running challenge this year having climbed the outright podium on three occasions in 2016.

“It’s been a very long time since I have been so excited for a season’s racing and I’m determined to get back on the top step of the podium this year”, said Austin, “I’ve been doing this for a while now, this will be my seventh season in the BTCC – but there’s always been a compromise or something has been missing from the package.

“I have never been anywhere near this confident that I have the right package to do the job! I’ve won races before and I’m very well placed to do some more of it this season, that’s the target we’re all setting ourselves.”

He added: “I’ve got to say a huge thankyou to Simon [Belcher], not only for keeping faith in us but for giving me all the tools and support we need. Not just to run a front-running BTCC car, but to also ensure our partners see maximum return on their investment and our VIP guests receive the absolute best ‘money-can’t-buy’ experience in the team’s pristine Hospitality suite.”

Following a second ‘trade only’ day at Birmingham NEC tomorrow, Autosport International will open its doors to members of the public on Saturday, 14th January, and Sunday, 15th January, and both Austin and Belcher will be on hand signing autographs on the BTCC and Legends Cars stands. For ticket information, visit www.autosportinternational.com


Note to editors:
Northgate Vehicle Hire:
Northgate has been providing complete and cost effective light commercial vehicle solutions to businesses for over 35 years. Northgate operates 50,000 vehicles on rental through 73 locations, which include more than 50 wholly-owned workshops. Northgate’s complete vehicle solution delivers predictability of costs and peace of mind allowing customers to concentrate on what is really important to them; delivering great customers service and growing their business.

Official website: www.northgateplc.com

Northgate Vehicle Hire Media Contact:
Tina Williamson
Tel: +44 (0)7826 944742
Email: tina.williamson@northgateplc.com

Handy Motorsport:
Copyright free images attached for editorial use – please credit Jakob Ebrey Photography

Official Website: www.handymotorsport.co.uk


Simon Belcher: @SimonBelcher11
Rob Austin @RobertoAustini

Media Contact:
Marc Orme
Tel: +44 (0)7920 886985
Email: marc@marc-orme.co.uk / marcorme1@aol.com
By Rob Austin 11 Jan, 2017

• Touring car ace Rob Austin remains with Swindon team for second season
• Handy Motorsport key part of BTCC presence at Autosport International
• Austin to feature on all four days of annual extravaganza in Birmingham

Popular Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship team Handy Motorsport will retain the services of star driver Rob Austin for the 2017 season it is announced today, Wednesday, 11th January, as the podium finishing partnership targets race wins and a sustained front-running challenge.

Austin’s confirmation behind the wheel of the squad’s Toyota Avensis for a second consecutive campaign in the UK’s biggest and best motor racing championship brings tremendous continuity for the team, off the back of its best ever season in the BTCC in 2016.

Not only did the Evesham driver take Handy Motorsport to its maiden podium finish in touring cars last year, Austin’s first ever BTCC campaign in front-wheel drive, he added two more rostrum results and also scorched to a brace of Independents Trophy wins during the second half of the season.

In further news, ahead of the new BTCC campaign the Wiltshire squad has moved its entire operation under one roof at the main headquarters in Swindon. For the past three years, Handy has worked in partnership with Speedworks Motorsport but for 2017 will be a true standalone entity.

“Firstly, I’m obviously very happy to be part of Handy Motorsport again for the new BTCC season”, said Austin, “We always knew there would be a learning curve relating to all aspects in 2016, driving, engineering, management and personnel. The BTCC is so competitive, all of these aspects have to be perfect to get to the front and I will admit it took longer than I expected.

“Our continuous improvement each time out through the second half of last season, though, capped off with a front row qualifying and a great podium at one of my weakest tracks to round the year off, shows that we just about got there in the end. There is no reason that form won’t continue, so it’s exciting to be going into the 2017 season with a car that can win and is so well supported.”

He added: “We have some exciting new partnerships in place and have retained the fantastic support from our existing partners, I can’t wait to show them off together with our exciting new livery at Autosport International.”

Hot on the heels of the fantastic news of Austin’s continuation in Handy colours, the fan favourite will be appearing with team principal Simon Belcher at this week’s annual Autosport International Show extravaganza at Birmingham NEC.

Regarded as the true start of the motor racing year, on the opening morning of the show on Thursday, 12th January, a stunning new livery for the squad’s Toyota will be revealed on the Dunlop
BTCC stand. Additionally, a brand new high profile commercial partner will be announced on the first day with confirmation of the team’s full portfolio of key backers.

Austin will appear across all four days of Autosport International and will take part in a number of autograph sessions for fans as well as ‘Meet and Greet’ opportunities on the Legends Cars stand, which will be adjacent to the Dunlop BTCC stage. Austin and Belcher are ambassadors for Legends Cars, both having competed in the hugely entertaining all-action category.

“Autosport International is always the true start of the motor racing year and it’s a hugely important date on the calendar for Handy Motorsport”, commented Belcher, “We’re obviously delighted to be a key part of the Dunlop BTCC stand once again, and we’re looking forward to giving everyone the first glimpse of our stunning new livery – we think it’ll be pretty popular!

“It goes without saying, we’re absolutely elated Rob is staying with the team for a second season and we’re all aiming to build on the foundations we laid last year. The team got stronger and more competitive as the season progressed, Rob proved the car was quick and helped make history with our first podiums and Independents wins. We’re aiming higher still for 2017.”

Autosport International will officially open to the trade and media on Thursday, 12th January, with a second trade only day on Friday, 13th January. Members of the public are able to visit on Saturday, 14th January, and Sunday, 15th January. Visit www.autosportinternational.com for more details.


Note to editors:
Copyright free images attached for editorial use – please credit Jakob Ebrey Photography

Official Website: www.handymotorsport.co.uk


Twitter: @SimonBelcher11

Media Contact:
Marc Orme
Tel: +44 (0)7920 886985
Email: marc@marc-orme.co.uk / marcorme1@aol.com
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