Simon Belcher unveiled his Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis at Autosport’s International Show, as he prepares for his rookie season in the British Touring Car Championship.
The two-time Renault UK Clio Cup Masters champion revealed the striking Kärcher-sponsored Toyota at Birmingham’s NEC Arena on Thursday (9 January), and told thecheckeredflag afterwards of his eagerness to get his 2014 BTCC season underway.
“It’s a big step up”, Belcher commented. “When I made the step up to Renault Clio Cup I thought that was a big one but the change up to BTCC has been phenomenal.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of attention we have already had. Everybody is coming up to me and saying ‘welcome to touring cars!’ so it’s exciting.”
Belcher has already tested the Handy Motorsport Avensis at Silverstone, and after first impressions said that the step up to BTCC machinery will take time to initially adapt to.
“The car felt really good and I think, before I got in it I thought it’s a lot bigger than a Clio and how am I going to get on with that, but when I drove it it felt no bigger than anything else I’ve driven so we got over that hurdle very quickly”, Belcher added.
“I think the biggest thing I had to get my head around were the brakes which are very different because you have big, proper racing brakes and in the Clio you have a basic road braking system. It is different and it’s something that I need to work on, but what we need now is time in the car just to get me acclimatised with the brakes and the gearbox.
“It’s all little things; it’s all about the way the car rides the kerbs so well, the brakes and gearbox are fantastic and the power is mind-blowing compared to a 200bhp Clio.
“We’ve got some upgrades coming back from Cosworth after this week and then we’ll be going testing in either the UK or Spain, but obviously it all comes down to budget. It is about trying to get as much track time in the car as possible before Brands Hatch.
“Speedworks have developed this car well and it was beating the Hondas at the end of last year, so we know the car is quick enough, it’s making sure that the driver is quick enough!”
Belcher remained realistic about his chances during his rookie campaign, with solid consistency being his primary goal for the season.
He added: “It is a learning year and I would be naïve if I came into the British Touring Car Championship with extremely high expectations straight away with the quality of drivers and experience of the likes of Matt Neal and Jason Plato.
“I think, first year goal is to score points. Now we have a capacity grid of over 30 cars, you have got to be in the top half to score points. That is the first goal of the season, and then we will re-evaluate after the season because the goals will always keep moving.
“We’ve got to go out there and make sure we’re finishing races, always scoring points and make sure to keep our sponsor’s logos going around the track rather than being sat in the garage.”