Simon Belcher promises ‘exciting things’ for the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season for Handy Motorsport, after Rob Austin secured the team’s best result in the final meeting of the most recent campaign.
Austin clinched his second podium finish of the season in round 28 at Brands Hatch GP circuit, briefly threatening the lead with a bold attempt to wrestle the lead off of Colin Turkington on the opening lap of the race.
Despite a mechanical problem forcing his race two retirement, Austin’s 10th top-10 finish of the season secured the Toyota Avensis driver 16th in the final championship standings, earning praise from team boss Simon Belcher in his first season with front-wheel driver BTCC machinery.
“Snetterton was a big turning point for us”, Belcher told The Checkered Flag, referring back to their maiden podium visit in August. “To come away with a podium that weekend was fantastic and, since then, we’ve always been on the pace.
“We’d have liked those podiums to come a little bit sooner if I’m being honest. We had some issues just getting it dialed in earlier in the year.
“We didn’t come away with what we deserved at Silverstone because of two punctures, but we were really excited and wanted to come straight to Brands Hatch.”
The final round of the season produced Handy Motorsport’s best result of the campaign, Austin promoted to the front row of the grid before securing a hard-fought second place from the chasing Josh Cook and Jason Plato.
Austin himself said: “Unfortunately we didn’t have the pace to go with Colin [Turkington] but we had the pace to hold off JP [Jason Plato]. It’s a huge thing for all of us and the car was amazing; thank you to the team for continuing to develop it to this point.”
Belcher added to TCF: “Front row of the grid set us up and puts you in a completely different frame of mind. Rob getting our best result of the season in race one was fantastic, before lady luck served us another punishment in race two with an alternator belt breaking.
“I’m proud of all the guys”, concluded Belcher. “They put in 110 per cent and I’m really pleased.
“Speedworks in the sister Toyota were hammering the results in early doors and it took us a while to get the team running. It was also Rob’s first year in FWD; his engineer’s first with FWD also, so it took time to get up to speed.”
Belcher kept his cards close to his chest when discussing the squad’s 2017 plans, but was optimistic of ‘exciting’ changes over the winter.
The former Renault UK Clio Cup driver said he would not return to the driving seat just yet, adding: “We’ve got some exciting things lined up over the winter. When they start happening in the next couple of months, we’ll be in good shape.
“I’d like to return, but only when the time is right.”