Snetterton Blog

  • By Rob Austin
  • 09 Nov, 2016

Finally!

In my last blog I said that we had turned a corner and we were expecting things to start to turn around, well after only qualifying 23rd and not having a clue why… to say we were devastated would be an understatement. The car felt good and I had no idea why we were so slow, if something’s wrong then you can get annoyed at that but not having a clue was traumatising me!
Fortunately, we have access to Tom Ingram’s data, so once his car was out of scrutineering we were able to see that there was 1.7 seconds to make up purely in the braking zones and we were able to quickly identify the problem. That time would have put us on the first or second row of the grid so on one hand we were relieved and excited that the pace was there but on the other hand it was too late and we were stuck starting in 23rd. Either way, at least I could sleep that night knowing we had a good car after all.
The first lap of Sunday’s racing wasn’t great, I got boxed out and Andy (Andrew Jordan) passed me straight away so I tucked in and thought I would follow him through. A couple of corners later there was contact up ahead which shoved me onto the grass on the outside in one move and we were back to where we started. From there on in, it all worked a lot better and we gradually progressed to P13.
In race two, I got hung out again but had a great race trying to get past Gordon Sheddon. OK, he was limping a bit after his battle with Adam (Morgan) but it still wasn’t easy and I always seem to have a good fair race with Gordon.
Race three, and instead of getting boxed out I boxed everyone else out! It just worked out well and we found ourselves in a good position by the end of lap one. The car was feeling really good in those early laps and I was able to get involved and continue going forward. By the time I got to third, Collard had disappeared up the road and Gordon had so much pace I couldn’t even consider going after him. We had enough pace to keep a comfortable gap to the chasing Subarus, so held on.
I need to thank Simon Belcher for keeping faith in us. We have massively under-performed so far this year but he knew we would get there and kept faith even when Matt (my engineer) and I doubted ourselves. Likewise, our fans, they are something else, a mad bunch but their support is incredible!
On to Knockhill, I really can’t say how we will get on there. The car’s great now and I love Knockhill. I’ve gone really, really well there in everything I’ve ever race around there, in-fact if you were to ask me if there’s one place I am fast at, its Knockhill! However, it’s also a very unique circuit, rear-wheel drive obviously suits it well but power is also a really big factor to drag you up that long hill that is a big percentage of the lap time.
So with three fast rear-wheel drive BMWs, two fast rear-wheel drive Subarus which are also very fast in a straight line and two Fords which are in a different league in a straight line, we will be up against it. I think anything in the top ten and we will be doing very well but the Toyota was actually very fast there last year, so you never know.
We’ll give it all we’ve got anyway and we’ll certainly be aiming to mix it with those guys. If I had to pick who was going to be the top scorer, I would put my money on Rob Collard.
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.

ENDS

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

Official Websites: www.robaustin.com   www.handymotorsport.co.uk

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/HandyMotorsport
http://www.facebook.com/Robaustinracing
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simon-Belcher/127932727294627

Twitter: @SimonBelcher11
    : @robertoaustini

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

ENDS

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

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/HandyMotorsport
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simon-Belcher/127932727294627

Twitter:
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.

ENDS

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

Official Website: www.handymotorsport.co.uk

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/HandyMotorsport
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simon-Belcher/127932727294627

Twitter: @SimonBelcher11

Media Contact:
Marc Orme
Tel: +44 (0)7920 886985
Email: marc@marc-orme.co.uk / marcorme1@aol.com
By Rob Austin 09 Nov, 2016
Well that’s it, the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is now over. Congratulations to our champion Gordon Shedden, a worthy victor, and commiserations to Sam Tordoff who had led the championship for so long only to lose it during the final race of the season. I have to say, I admire how Sam handled himself throughout, I’m really not sure I could have been so composed in his situation.
For us, the final round was a continuation of our consistent progress since the midseason Dunlop tyre test. There’s more to come, and I believe our performances since that test have served as a sign of our potential for 2017.
After qualifying sixth at Silverstone and knowing the step we had made in race three there, we felt we should be in a position to challenge for pole position at Brands Hatch. Unfortunately, a dry-wet-dry session meant that it was all about the last lap and on mine, I came across traffic.
Fortunately, our fastest time came two laps prior, when the track was considerably damper but it still good enough for second on the grid. It was Handy Motorsport’s best- ever qualifying session and we were all very pleased. I knew, however, that pole position was possible and as a driver nothing other than winning is good enough. So although I was happy, there was also an element of frustration.
For race one, I knew that if I was going to stand a chance of winning I had to get the lead on the first lap. The first laps of the race, though, also served as my first laps of Brands Hatch’s Grand Prix layout in a front-wheel drive car on a fully dry circuit, so it was always going to be tricky.
I was happy with my start and although I wasn’t going to give up my only option was to go around the outside of a double champion driving one of the most developed, manufacturer supported cars on the grid while he fights to hang on to an outside chance of winning the championship… So ok, it was always going to be a long shot.
From there on we just lacked a little bit of pace compared to Colin (Turkington) and he edged away in his Subaru. We were comfortable in second though, Jason (Plato) got close as my tyres started to fade but not close enough that I needed to defend so we were over the moon to finish second – my best placing of the season and another best-ever for the team.
For race two, we had no idea how the cards were going to fall with the soft tyres and ballast on our car. We held second for a while but as soon as the softs started to drop off, Jason had a lot more pace than me and fair play to him and Gordon Shedden, Jason’s move was very good and Shedden read the situation very well to follow him through. In a funny kind of way, you don’t mind losing a position if it’s a really good clean move.
Anyway, I was a bit worried at this point as I now had Josh Cook catching me and I was really starting to struggle with my tyres. To top things off, a couple of laps later my battery warning light came on. Knowing that meant the alternator belt had failed, the only option was to turn everything electrical off, carry on and hope you have enough charge to get to the end.
A couple of laps later and after dropping away by a big chunk early on, we were now steadying the ship and I started to pull away from Cook. I then began to pull in the lead trio and just as I started plotting an attempt at a move for the podium, my power steering started cutting out. It’s a hydraulic system but its powered by an electric pump and that’s something I couldn’t turn off. It was intermitant for a few laps and somehow I was still catching the leaders but with only two laps to go it failed completely. I continued for another lap hoping to retain a sensible grid spot for race three but I lost power. Everyone made their way past me and half a lap later the engine cut out completely and that was us done. To say we were gutted is an understatement!
Race three was nothing to write home about after what had happened in the first two races. I’ll never understand why people battling for non points-paying positions are so prepared to put everything on the line to stop you getting through. Granted, everyone is racing their race but with me racing a quicker car, both parties would lose less time overall come the end of the race if I could get away and be up the road.
Anyway, by the time we got up to the lead pack, after the battles I’d already had neither I nor the car couldn’t do much more. Even so, 31st to 14th wasn’t a bad run, I suppose.
Overall, I am very happy with the way 2016 has panned out. During the first half of the season, I was driving the wheels off of the car and not going anywhere fast but for the second half, the quick times were coming more easily. It may not have all gone to plan this year but we have ended the season with a really good little team that is working extremely well together. We’ve learned a huge amount this year and we are now in a very strong position, looking to be a consistent front-runner throughout the 2017 season.
I am now working with the guys to put our commercial packages together and to implement our winter development programme. We are also hopeful that we might have a big announcement to make at the ASI show in January as well.
This is the important time for a BTCC team. The better your preparations, the better your performance. Working with Simon (Belcher) and the Handy Motorsport team is an absolute pleasure and I feel very excited about the way things are heading.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page (Rob Austin Racing) and Twitter (@robertoaustini) for regular updates over the winter and I look forward to seeing you all again for an even bigger and better season next year.
By Rob Austin 09 Nov, 2016
When I committed to this move to Handy Motorsport I knew there would be a lot to learn and a lot to adjust to for everyone involved however I felt the package as a whole would be a winner. So, OK, I under estimated it, we struggled at first and its taken us much longer to get to this point than I imagined it would but no one can deny our progress during this second half of the year and the car I had in the final race at Silverstone was definitely a race winner had we not had to start from the back. That’s a big thing for me, it’s the first time I’ve honestly been able to say that and its filled me with excitement and motivation for the final round at Brands Hatch and for 2017.
Going in to the 9th round of the 2016 Dunlop British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone and as I said in my last blog, we thought we would have a strong package and we thought that we had made further improvements. FP1 was a washout and meant that no one got any meaningful running but during FP2 we went straight out with a new pair of front tyres on and on my first flying lap of Silverstone in a FWD ever it was good enough for P5. Ok, its free practice, it doesn’t prove much other than we were in the ball park. But then in qualifying, to spite only really getting one decent run with and leaving some on the table we still managed p6.
For race 1 the worry was the guys on the soft tyres and the challenge would be to stay ahead of them in the early laps. I got a great start but within seconds of the lights going green I had already been side swiped by Morgan which damaged my suspension. The car was different but fortunately Ok. Unfortunately, in the couple of laps it took me to adjust to its new handling characteristics Morgan managed to get passed on his soft tyres. Eventually we managed to find our way back past but by that time the lead pack had gone and we finished 5th on the road.
Finding out that both MG’s had been disqualified was a funny feeling, it promoted us to a podium place so you cant help but be happy but it’s not the way we want to get our trophy’s, we want to earn them! Plus you feel bad for them, 888 are not cheats and there is no way that would have been intentional. Still the rules are the rules and I don’t know what the fault was exactly so I can’t say if it had a performance advantage or not but, honestly, I doubt it.
Race 2 we therefore started in 3rd and after a clean get away we were sat comfortably behind Jordan in that position. I didn’t want to challenge as we were on the softs and I was just taking it very easy, staying off the kerbs and trying my best to look after them. I made a small mistake which allowed two cars through but although I was annoyed with myself I continued to look after the tyres and my only goal was to finish inside the top ten. Then I started picking up more and more understeer and lost some straight line speed, I couldn’t hold on and fell down to 8th a lap later the tyre gave up and that was my race done. It was far too early in the race to be set-up or wear related so we determined that the failure must have been debris. Gutted!
For race 3, starting off the back of the grid we got brave and tried a setting that we had been talking about for some time. It was either going to be awful or breakthrough tweak we had been looking for. Fortunately it was the later! We flew through the field, the car was awesome. I could put it where I wanted, it had no understeer it was just mega! We got from 31st to 13th by 2/3rds of the way through the race and we were still going strong. We reeled in the MG’s then drew alongside pole man Ash Sutton, he squeezed me at the exit of turn 3 which resulted in a degree of rubbing in to turn 4, nothing bad just normal rubbings racing but unfortunately it caused another puncture as we exited Luffield. 6 years no punctures and now two in one day, I was gutted.
BUT we have had Handy Motorsports best ever qualifying, our second podium of the year and found a tweak to make a competitive car even stronger, there are so many positives to take from this weekend that even two DNF’s cant keep my head down and I cant wait to see what we can do at Brands.
Brands GP is actually the only track on the calendar that I dread. I love the place but I always seem to struggle there and I cant figure out why however given how good the car felt at Silverstone its giving me more confidence and so I’m feeling the best I ever have heading in to the final round.
See you all there.
More Posts
Share by: