Rob Austin expressed his excitement following a move to Handy Motorsport for the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season, saying he expects to pick up front-wheel drive knowledge quickly.
The former two-time BTCC race winner makes the switch to the Handy Motorsport squad from his self-run Rob Austin Racing outfit, taking over the Toyota Avensis seat vacated by its former driver, Simon Belcher.
Belcher expressed his own optimism of the new partnership for the coming campaign, while Austin himself admitted that the deal was a no-brainer from the moment discussions between the pair first took place.
“We asked a few questions and thought, ‘yep – we’re on the same page'”, Austin told TCF on his new partnership with Belcher for 2016.
“We knew we needed a change. I was speaking to manufacturers but it was getting later and later, then I had the conversations with Simon about what sounded like a really big opportunity. I’m very, very much looking forward to it.”
Leaving his old Audi A4 – famously branded “Sherman” – behind was a decision that came easily to Austin, who suffered a mixed season in 2015 after only collecting a best result of fifth place across the 30 encounters.
Austin however did not question his own ability from results earned during the most recent season, making the move away to a new team after efforts to bring in a new machine did not materialise.
“I made it clear last year that I was getting a bit frustrated with the situation, especially when you know you’ve done a good job and you’re still down in 15th”, declared Austin.
“I don’t call myself the best driver on the grid but I know that, when I do a good job, we should be somewhere near the front. It was getting very frustrating racing wheel-to-wheel with people I didn’t feel I should have been.”
One of the particular stresses which Austin admitted to gladly leaving behind is the additional tasks from running an Independent outfit himself, adding: “It’s been so stressful over the last few years running a team on a small budget.
“Then of course you add being a driver, driving the truck and managing – I feel that I can now perform better in this situation.
“That first conversation with Simon made me realise exactly what we both wanted and it’s already in progress. I’m excited for this future.”
Although the Toyota Avensis has not won a race in BTCC since the 2012 season finale, Austin was highly optimistic ahead of a new season and a new challenge.
“I want to win!” Austin enthused. “Of course I want to win!
“I’ve got a bit of learning to do before I’ve got up to the outright pace. Obviously learning the tyre wear and qualifying tricks as well, but I think that will come naturally.
“If I could survive being beaten up in my rear-wheel drive car, then surely front-wheel drive is the safer option. We’ll wait and see.”