Handy Motorsport newcomer Simon Belcher tested his newly-acquired BTCC Toyota Avensis for the first time at Silverstone as he prepares to make his series debut next March.
After recently announcing his graduation from the BTCC-supporting Renault UK Clio Cup, double Masters Class champion Belcher conducted his first run in the former Speedworks Toyota at the Northamponshire venue and enjoyed an encouraging first outing.
Depsite ECU issues hampering the Swindon driver during the damp opening session briefly, the 39-year-old admitted that he was thrilled by his first experience in a BTCC car.
“It’s been a brilliant day, it was everything I expected”, said Belcher following his maiden run in the Avensis.
“I’d never even sat in a touring car before today and we weren’t a million miles away by the end, so I’m really pleased. We made some good progress and I really enjoyed working with the Speedworks guys for the first time.
“I wondered how the speed of the car would feel and compare to the Clio I’ve been racing the past two years, and the touring car does have so much more power. What needed getting used to the most, though, was the brakes – you really have to stand on them.”
The KÄRCHER supported driver declared the BTCC Toyota as a completely different kettle of fish compared to his usual Renault Clio Cup car from recent seasons on the TOCA package, and will next appear at Birmingham’s NEC in January, where his Handy Motorsport 2014 livery will be unveiled during the annual Autosport International Show between 9-12 January.
Belcher added: “When you’re strapped into the car it doesn’t feel that much bigger, but the steering is harder work and everything is just that bit heavier. The more aggressive you drive a touring car, the smoother it feels, so you really have to grab it by the throat to get the most out of it. That’s different to what I’ve been used to with the Clio and something to work on over the winter.”
Following a programme of winter testing during the early part next year, Belcher’s first BTCC appearance will come during the pre-season Media Day at Donington Park Tuesday 18 March.