Swindon’s Handy Motorsport is steadfastly keeping its expectations grounded ahead of the fifth event of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season at Croft Circuit next weekend, 10th/11th June, where the team expects its rear-wheel drive opposition to have a clear advantage.
As the 2017 season gets ready to reach its halfway point at the North Yorkshire track, the race winning Independents Trophy squad is setting a target of three consistent top 10 points finishes as it aims to continue the strong form shown at Oulton Park a fortnight ago.
Rob Austin steered the front-wheel drive No.11 Toyota Avensis to an excellent Independents victory in Cheshire last time out, seventh overall, and also claimed ninth and eighth place results in the two preceding contests to move to within just four points of the top three in the Independents battle.
It’s certainly been a very competitive season up to now for the Evesham driver, with highlights including the team’s maiden BTCC pole position and an outright podium finish at Donington Park, but Handy is tempering expectations ahead of Croft – a venue unlikely to be the most favourable for the Duo and Northgate-liveried Avensis.
“We underestimated the rear-wheel drive cars at Oulton and we know at Croft they’re definitely going to be strong”, said Austin, “We just need to do the best job we can relative to the other front-wheel drives, similar to what we did last time, and just keep picking up the points.
“Overall, the top 10 in the championship has compressed itself after Oulton and we’re in there so that’s the important thing. Our aim is to keep the consistency going at Croft which is a track I like, I get on well with the place so we’re looking forward to being back there.”
Going into the fifth event of the campaign, Austin is fourth in the Independents Trophy standings and inside the ever tightening top 10 of the main BTCC title race where less than 30 points now cover sixth to 10th position. Handy Motorsport is eighth in the team standings, meanwhile, and fifth in the Independents Trophy team championship.
While looking forward immensely to the BTCC’s annual visit to the North East, team principal Simon Belcher is in full agreement with Austin that Croft will be one of the more challenging events of the season and so consolidation and consistency will be key.
“Our target again is solid points for Croft, I think big glory potential is going to be slim as it’s a rear-wheel drive circuit and the Hondas are head and shoulders above everyone else at the moment with front-wheel drive”, he commented, “I’m sure the top five at least will be locked out, so it’ll be all about trying to get into the top 10 in qualifying for us.
“We’re keeping our expectations realistic, if we can bag another three top 10 finishes in the races we’ll all be happy as things then swing back in favour of the front-wheel drive teams at Snetterton after the summer break. It’s all closed up in the Independents championship, the car is going well and we’re chipping away and making gains all the time. Croft will be all about consistent points.”
Opening free practice at Croft for the BTCC drivers will begin track action on Saturday, 10th June, at 09.30 with the second session following at 12.00 and qualifying – which will be streamed live online at the www.itv.com/btcc website – commencing at 16.00.
On Sunday, 11th June, round 13 will begin at around 12.05, round 14 will start at approximately 14.45 and round 15 will begin at 17.20 – all three encounters will be streamed live online and screened live on ITV4.
2017 BTCC Drivers Championship Standings:
10th Rob Austin, 83pts
2017 Independents Trophy Standings:
4th Rob Austin, 133pts
2017 HiQ Teams Championship Standings:
8th Handy Motorsport, 82pts
2017 Independents Team Trophy Standings:
5th Handy Motorsport, 134pts