Rob Austin cautiously optimistic after successful media day test

Handy Motorsport’s Rob Austin showed excellent pace while racking up valuable testing mileage during the BTCC’s only official pre-season test at Donington Park on Thursday, with the second fastest time and the second highest number of laps completed.

The 36-year-old posted a best lap of 1m10.109 seconds, only 0.1 slower than fellow Toyota pace-setter Tom Ingram in the Speedworks Motorsport machine.

“Donington has been a good indicator, but it’s by no means the full picture,” said 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.

“I’m certainly confident going to Brands. 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.”

With four red flag stoppages during the test, 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.”