Austin pleased with pre-season progress
Oulton Park was the venue for the start of Handy Motorsport’s 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship testing programme this week, providing Rob Austin’s first mileage of the year in the team’s newly-built Toyota Avensis.
Following a well-received team launch at last month’s Autosport International Show, this week’s running on Tuesday and Wednesday left the Evesham racer suitably impressed with more than 100 laps completed.
The Swindon-based squad, heading into its fourth year in the championship, has been working over recent weeks and months to ensure it is in the strongest possible shape for the coming campaign and the fruits of that labour borne out at Oulton Park.
The car’s ahead-of-schedule build and completion ensured development and fine-tuning could begin early – the Toyota’s pace and balance at a cold, greasy Oulton Park was a source of encouragement for Austin.
“The two days at Oulton went very well,” he said. “The boys have made a beautiful job of building the car, its ahead of schedule and absolutely immaculate as you would expect from the Handy Motorsport team.
“The weather hindered our track time a little, but we anticipated that by booking two days rather than just one. Out of the box the car was much more hooked up than when we raced here last year and that served as a great example of the progress we made through the second half of 2016.”
As well as marking the maiden run-out for Handy’s new car, the test was also the first opportunity for Austin and the squad to experience the new 2017 Dunlop rubber which has been introduced for the coming season. Dunlop’s new SportMaxx tyres are larger, with a 20mm increase in width, with the new construction also expected to deliver increased grip and traction.
“It’s a really nice tyre, full credit to Dunlop for all of their hard work developing it,” added Austin. “We completed a good number of laps, worked through our carefully planned programme and we certainly left Oulton with the feeling we have continued on the steep development curve we were on through the second half of the 2016 season.
“It’s got me very excited for the start of the season, the car feels strong and well balanced and I’m feeling very confident about going up against the rest of the field. Brands can’t come soon enough! Before then we have a very comprehensive test schedule organised and a lot of developments to continue working on.”