Following another superb showing at Knockhill in Scotland, where Rob Austin delivered the Swindon team’s maiden top 10 qualifying performance in touring cars as well as a brace of top 10 results, with a best of sixth, hopes are justifiably high for rounds 22, 23 and 24.
With Knockhill a track suited more to rear-wheel drive cars, rather than the front-wheel drive Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis, the performance in Fife last weekend more than confirmed the squad’s status among the front-running entrants.
Now heading to a circuit which is far more friendly to the No.11 Toyota, aims of making a return to the BTCC podium aren’t unrealistic as the team seeks to add to the magnificent first BTCC rostrum it achieved at Snetterton when the second half of the season got underway at the end of July.
“Knockhill was another very positive weekend for the team, for Rob to take our best ever qualifying at a track more suited to the rear-wheel drive cars proves the continued progress we’re making and shows Snetterton was far from a one-off”, commented team boss Simon Belcher, “Everything is moving in the right direction now and we’re definitely aiming to make more progress at Rockingham.”
While a radically different track to Knockhill, and Snetterton before that, Rockingham ISSC is just as challenging in its own right. With the ultra-fast blast across the start/finish straight through Turn One of the oval banking providing excellent slipstreaming opportunities, the technical infield section also lends itself to key overtaking chances.
Austin, of course, is renowned as one of the very best pure racers in touring cars and having been successful at Rockingham in the past – the venue for both of his outright BTCC race victories in 2013 and 2014 – he is relishing the prospect of racing there for the first time in the No.11 Avensis.
“Rockingham has been notoriously good for me, and it’s good for the Toyota too as Tom [Ingram – Speedworks Motorsport driver] proved last year with a podium”, said the 35-year-old, “It feels like we’re going from strength to strength at the minute, hopefully we can increase our points tally again at Rockingham and be right up there.”
Going into next weekend’s action, in addition to the outright top three finish from Snetterton last month Austin has two Independents Trophy podiums under his belt and is fifth in the Independents Trophy championship standings.
Handy Motorsport, meanwhile, is fourth in the Independents Team Trophy and ninth in the outright HiQ Team Championship. In the Dunlop #ForeverForward battle, which ranks drivers on the number of positions gained during the season, Austin is third.