Finals Day for the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit next Sunday, 1st October, will mark a significant milestone in Handy Motorsport’s BTCC history – its final event with the No.11 Toyota Avensis before switching to Alfa Romeo next year.
Determined to make it a happy swansong for the green and white Duo and Northgate liveried Toyota, particularly after a very competitive return to form at Silverstone just over a week ago, the Swindon squad and fan-favourite racer Rob Austin are going all out for podium success.
Posting a double top five in rounds 26 and 27 last time out, having already finished ninth in the preceding round 25, Austin felt victory was a very real possibility in the last race of the weekend at Silverstone…but his hopes were undone at the first corner after being knocked into a slide.
Even so, the pace and competitiveness delivered throughout the penultimate weekend confirmed the team is back where it should be and with Brands Hatch GP Circuit a track where Austin was very quick last season, podiums should certainly be within reach.
During the corresponding fixture 12 months ago, the Evesham driver made history for Handy by securing its first ever front row starting slot in qualifying and he went on to finish an excellent second overall – the team’s best BTCC result – and achieve the squad’s second Independents win.
“I really am looking forward to Brands GP, last year we had a really good car there and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have that again this time round”, said Austin, “I love the track, it’s a fantastic place to drive, and we’re going there aiming to end the season on a bit of a high. We were back on form at Silverstone and we’re determined to carry that forward to next weekend.
“Last year at Brands I put the Toyota on the front row so it’d be fantastic to try and do that again, especially on our last weekend with the car before we switch to Alfa next year. We know the Avensis is back where it was earlier in the season, so we’re going there with a confident mindset. Hopefully we can make a push for the podium to really end the season strongly.”
Handy, of course, has run with the Toyota brand since entering the BTCC back in 2014 with team principal Simon Belcher behind the wheel. After two years as a competitor in the championship, he turned his full focus to the management of the team ahead of the 2016 season when the squad made a huge leap forward by enlisting the services of experienced race winner Austin.
Over the past two seasons, Handy Motorsport has built impressively on the foundations laid in the previous couple of years and is now ready to sign-off the current chapter with a serious push for silverware during the season finale.
“We’ve had four fantastic years with the Toyota Avensis, the team has grown hugely in stature in the BTCC during that time and we’re all hoping to end this chapter on a high”, said Belcher, “Rob was very competitive last year at the GP track and after such a strong run at Silverstone last time out, we’re all feeling confident of a good weekend.”
Following two practice sessions at Brands Hatch on Saturday, 30th September, qualifying will get underway at 15.05. On Sunday, 1st October, round 28 will commence at around 11.35, round 29 starts at 14.20 and round 30 is scheduled for 17.15. Qualifying and raceday will be carried live online at the www.itv.com/btcc website with the races also screened live across the UK on ITV4.
Fans flock to Handy Motorsport launch event at TH White
Casting one eye to next year, a special event at the TH White Alfa Romeo dealership in Swindon this past Saturday attracted scores of fans who seized the opportunity to enjoy a Q&A session with Austin and Belcher, which was hosted by 1992 BTCC Champion and ITV4 commentator Tim Harvey.
Featuring the Alfa Romeo Giulietta showcar, which appeared live on ITV4 at the Rockingham race meeting last month where Handy Motorsport revealed the 2018 tie-up with the Alfa Romeo Dealer Council, the weekend’s event was a huge success.
TH White, a key team sponsor and part of the Dealer Council, has been instrumental in bringing the deal together and its Forest Park Road premises were packed out on Saturday as countless fans gathered – an indicator of the excitement surrounding the return of the Alfa brand to the BTCC.
“We all had a fantastic time on Saturday at TH White, the event was a massive success and it looks like we’ve certainly got plenty of people excited about the Alfa deal!”, commented Belcher, “We’re very grateful to Paul Doick at the dealership for his support with the event, and a big thank you to Tim Harvey for hosting the Q&A and bringing his great insight – especially as a former Alfa racer!”
2017 BTCC Drivers Championship Standings:
12th Rob Austin, 139pts
2017 Independents Trophy Standings:
6th Rob Austin, 244pts
2017 HiQ Teams Championship Standings:
11th Handy Motorsport, 139pts
2017 Independents Team Trophy Standings:
6th Handy Motorsport, 260pts