Multiple Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race winner Rob Austin got 2018 off to a dream start for Duo Motorsport with HMS Racing at Donington Park on Tuesday, 27th March, after producing the fastest time during the category’s annual pre-season ‘Media Day’ test.
Joining the championship’s 31 other registered competitors at the Leicestershire track for the eagerly awaited BTCC season launch, Austin steered his new-for-2018 Alfa Romeo Giulietta to the top of the timesheets with a lap 0.164 seconds clear of his closest rival.
Although keeping plenty in reserve, Evesham racer Austin was still able to deliver two laps which would have been good enough to end the day fastest of all. In the end, a time of 1m10.074 seconds put the Duo Motorsport with HMS Racing car quickest for the day.
“It was a very good, very positive day and we were quick, but we’ve got to be realistic as none of us know exactly where we are – we’ll only find that out after qualifying at the first round”, said Austin, “We know other teams haven’t shown their true hand yet, but neither have we and there’s still much more to do. Our Alfa is only three running days old, so there’s a lot of development to come.
“Although there are a lot of common components shared by the Alfa and the Toyota we ran last year, the cars are very different and it has taken a bit more work than I anticipated initially. With all that said, though, it’s always positive to top the times in the pre-season test so we’re delighted.”
Following the morning’s media activities at Donington, where Duo Motorsport with HMS Racing also revealed its brand new hospitality unit, the testing action commenced after lunch where a damp track initially awaited competitors.
Notably, this was the first wet-weather running yet for the Alfa Romeo and so the laps completed provided essential data for the team ahead of the opening event of the 2018 season which takes place on 7th/8th April at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit.
As the track dried during the afternoon, lap times duly improved and Austin comfortably ran in the top four. Into the final hour he moved the No.11 car to the top of the timesheets and while very pleased with the outcome, Austin and the team are remaining steadfastly level-headed.
“Everybody wants to win, it’s no different for us and hasn’t been any different for me in 27 years of racing – we’ll be going to Brands looking to do the absolute best we can”, Austin added, “Realistically we don’t know what everyone else is doing, but we’re just going to concentrate on our job, focus on what we need to do and then see where we are at the first round.
“As I’ve said, we know others have more in the bag but so do we, so we’re in a good place as things stand. What I will say, this Duo Motorsport with HMS Alfa Romeo is the best package I’ve ever started a season with, so we’re definitely feeling confident for the new season.”
Opening practice for the championship curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit will take place at 09.30 on Saturday, 7th April, with session two following at 12.05 ahead of qualifying at 15.15.
On Sunday, 8th April, round one is scheduled for 11.35, round two will begin at 14.25 and round three will follow at 17.15 – each race will be screened live on ITV4 and streamed live at www.itv.com/btcc
Photos: Jakob Ebrey Photography
Original Article: HMS Racing