FIRST EVER BTCC Podium WIN

BBX Sponsor Handy Motorsport who had their first ever British Touring Car Championship podium and independents win after remarkable drive from Rob Austin at Snetterton.

Btcc

•    Outstanding maiden BTCC podium for Handy Motorsport in Rd18 
•    Austin shows star quality with stunning drive from ninth to third place
•    Handy delivers on season-long potential and now eyes more silverware 

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship superstar Rob Austin produced an absolutely sensational performance during round 18 of the season at Snetterton on Sunday, 31st July, to secure Handy Motorsport’s maiden podium finish in the UK’s biggest motor racing category – as well as its first Independents Trophy class victory.

Having displayed excellent race pace in the day’s previous two contests, where he finished 13th and ninth respectively – having started race one down in 23rd position after problems with suspension in qualifying – Austin produced an even more impressive drive in the last of the weekend’s three races.

Round 18 was initially red flagged after a horrifying accident in the pack as the lights went out, where one car rolled several times and collided with a TV camera gantry. After a lengthy delay, the race was re-started and Austin stormed through from ninth in the No.11 Toyota Avensis and managed to climb into the top four by the time the leaders headed into the left-hander at Palmer.

Although momentarily edged back to fifth on lap three at the hairpin by Gordon Shedden, Austin threaded his way into third place a few corners later in a huge battle over the final podium place. During the latter stages, he defended third stoutly to keep multiple BTCC champion Jason Plato at bay and, in doing so, wrapped-up Handy’s history-making first podium in touring cars.

“I’m over the moon with this and need to thank Simon [Belcher, team principal] for keeping the faith in me, the whole team did a fantastic job”, said the elated 34-year-old, “On the test day last month we found our pace again from Media Day so came here with our tails up, we all believed we could put the car in the top 10 in qualifying. Unfortunately, though, we had a bit of a suspension problem.

“We worked our way through in the first two races and I’m happy we didn’t get the reverse grid pole actually for the last race as we earned every position from ninth. To be on the podium, from 23rd after qualifying, is a fantastic result for Handy Motorsport.”

Confirming the great strides made during the officially timed test at Snetterton in June, Austin lapped strongly in both free practice sessions and hopes were high going into qualifying of a potential season-best starting slot. The suspension issue, though, cost 1.5 seconds and considering he was 1.7 seconds away from pole, that told its own story of what might have been.

Beginning round 16 on Sunday morning from 23rd on the grid, Austin made a good launch from the line but had nowhere to go. Later in the lap, though, he climbed his way through into the top 20 and by the end of lap two had carved his way into 16th position.

Running the Soft compound Dunlop tyres for the opening contest, Austin made the most of the grip on offer early on and lapped with pace a match for the podium contenders. Passing Rob Collard to break into the top 15 on lap three, he then had three seconds to make up to the next group but gradually chipped away and with a couple of laps to run he was on the tail of the cars ahead.

By that point he was actually running in 13th position, as a result of punctures for the two MG team-mates, and Austin stayed there to the flag on lap 12. Pleasingly, his best lap of the contest, 1m57.918 seconds, was just 0.1 seconds shy of second placed Gordon Shedden’s best.

Round 17 was red flagged on the opening lap after several collisions, a frustrating occurrence for Austin as he’d made up several places before the contest was halted. The re-started race ran over a reduced distance of 10 laps and Austin battled into the top 10 on the second tour.

Sandwiched tightly between Shedden and Aiden Moffat, Austin managed to make his move on Shedden on lap five to take ninth from the Honda driver and despite pressure from the reigning BTCC champion during the closing stages, he maintained ninth to the finish.

Marking a return to the coveted top 10 for Handy Motorsport for the first time since Thruxton in May, the race also saw the Toyota Avensis deliver strong pace once again with a best lap just 0.2 seconds shy of race winner Mat Jackson’s fastest.

Reflecting on the best weekend of Handy Motorsport’s three-year tenure in the BTCC, team boss Simon Belcher said: “We’ve done it the hard way, that’s for sure! Qualifying 23rd and working our way up through the first two races, 13th in race one and ninth in race two, and then only just missing out on the reverse grid. Rob did an awesome job to go from ninth to third, it was a fantastic drive.

“We all knew the pace was in the car, it’s been a bit frustrating having to keep telling people that but we’ve proven it now with this podium – hopefully it’ll silence a few critics. It’s only taken us half a season to get on the podium which I think is pretty good going and, now we’ve got this monkey off our backs, we want to take the next step as our aim is to be winning races. I’m over the moon.”

Knockhill Circuit in Scotland is next on the BTCC schedule with rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the season taking place north of the border just a fortnight from now, over the weekend 13th/14th August.

2016 BTCC Drivers Championship Standings:
15th Rob Austin, 77pts

2016 Independents Trophy Standings:
5th Rob Austin, 178pts

2016 HiQ Teams Championship Standings:
10th Handy Motorsport, 80pts

2016 Independents Team Trophy Standings:
6th Handy Motorsport, 190pts

 

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