Handy Motorsport heads to Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire this weekend, 16th/17th September, with a burning desire to rediscover its impressive early and mid-season form as the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship enters its final phase.
With only two race meetings remaining this year, including the upcoming visit to the home of British motor racing, the Swindon squad and ultra-popular driver Rob Austin are aiming to put recent frustrations behind them to end their final season with the No.11 Toyota Avensis on a high.
Opening an exciting new chapter next year by bringing Alfa Romeo back to the BTCC through a key partnership with the Alfa Romeo Dealer Council, first Handy has some unfinished business with the Avensis which Austin has taken to Independents Trophy victory and outright podium glory this year.
Rewind to the end of the first half of the championship at Croft in June, Austin was a mere three points shy of the top of the Independents Trophy standings and he also held eighth in the outright title battle – within touching distance of the coveted top six. Handy was very well placed in the Independents Team Trophy too at that point, equal third.
Ahead of the penultimate event of the current campaign though, after some horrendous misfortune in recent rounds, Evesham’s Austin is 12th in the main BTCC title race and sixth in the Independents, but absolutely determined to rack-up the points at Silverstone.
During the corresponding race meeting last year, the Handy Motorsport package was extremely competitive. Qualifying sixth fastest, just a couple of tenths of a second shy of pole position, Austin raced to a fantastic top three finish in the opening encounter.
“We obviously had podium pace at Silverstone last year and we’ll be looking to deliver the same sort of performance at the weekend”, said the Duo and Northgate supported racer, “I know we have a strong all-round package and the Toyota is slippery through the air, which is important at Silverstone with a lot of the lap being straight.
“We know we’re good in the quick corners, like Copse, so on paper we have a good opportunity to get back to the sharp end. We’ll have to see where we stand with the Subarus and Fords with top speed as they’ve been blessed with some extra boost, but we think we’ll be strong.”
The past two race meetings have undoubtedly been frustrating, to say the very least, with the most recent event at Rockingham a fortnight ago compounding the misfortune which has impacted the second half of Handy’s season. Sustaining costly punctures in races one and two, in the third contest a misfire left the team justifiably exasperated.
In the face of the bad luck which first began during race three at Snetterton at the end of July when Austin was shunted into retirement, everyone at Handy Motorsport has remained fully focused on the job in hand and the desire to return to the podium is now stronger than ever.
Austin added: “We’ve had such a torrid time over the past few rounds and I know the boys have been working incredibly hard on the car. In race two at Rockingham, after we fitted the fresh tyre following the puncture, we were the quickest car on the circuit so we know the pace is there. I think we’ve got the car to be competitive at Silverstone and to get back where we should be.”
Opening practice for the BTCC runners at Silverstone will take place at 09.30 on Saturday, 16th September, with session two beginning at 12.45 and qualifying – which will be streamed live online at the www.itv.com/btcc website – following at 15.45.
On Sunday, 17th December, round 25 will get underway at around 11.55, round 26 is set to start at 14.30 and round 27 ends the day’s track action at 17.20. All three races will be streamed live online and broadcast on ITV4.
2017 BTCC Drivers Championship Standings:
12th Rob Austin, 110pts
2017 Independents Trophy Standings:
6th Rob Austin, 205pts
2017 HiQ Teams Championship Standings:
10th Handy Motorsport, 110pts
2017 Independents Team Trophy Standings:
7th Handy Motorsport, 221pts