DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing travels to Donington Park this weekend, 28th/29th April, for the second event of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season where Close Brothers sponsored driver Rob Austin is determined to secure a hat-trick of consistent points scores in rounds four, five and six.
Fresh from the fantastic opening weekend podium achieved by Austin at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit a fortnight ago, where the superb potential of the team’s glorious brand new Alfa Romeo Giulietta was clear to see, the Evesham driver is now determined to build on those excellent foundations.
While hungry to challenge for race victories as soon as possible in 2018, Austin is keeping his feet firmly on the ground – despite the tremendous start to DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing’s new era with Alfa Romeo – and says he heads to Leicestershire with realistic expectations.
As a result of Austin’s current championship placing of fourth position, the Giulietta will have to carry 48kg of ‘success’ ballast heading into qualifying and the first race of the weekend at Donington, and the impact of the added weight will be an unknown going into the second race meeting.
“Donington is a track I’ve always gone well on, I’ve won there in pretty much everything I’ve driven and last year we managed to stick the old Toyota on pole position so I’m looking forward to being back there”, he commented.
“Where, normally, I would be hoping to repeat last year’s pole position and aim for race wins, I’m very aware we’ll be carrying a substantial lump of lead in a car which we still don’t fully understand. I said last time out [at Brands Hatch] we are only really scratching the surface when it comes to this car’s potential, and that still rings true as we head to Donington.”
Since the championship curtain-raiser, the majority of BTCC competitors headed to Thruxton in Hampshire last week for an official test day ahead of next month’s race meeting there with Austin one of 25 competitors taking part.
While the extra mileage on the new Alfa was a bonus, and the day successful, the work completed isn’t likely to have any bearing on the upcoming Donington weekend due to the differing nature of the two circuits.
“Although the official Thruxton test was useful, Thruxton is a very, very different circuit where we also use a different tyre so most of the data we gather is only relevant to that specific circuit”, said Austin, “Unfortunately, that test meant we were unable to fit in a more relevant test day as well.
“So, for Donington, my expectations are realistic. I’m hoping we can get in a solid points-scoring weekend for now and once we have opportunity to start unlocking some potential in the DUO Motorsport with HMS Alfa Romeo, we’ll be aiming for wins.”
Team principal Simon Belcher added: “We’re looking forward to Donington but we are still testing and developing the Alfa Romeo so we’ll just have to wait and see what it brings. Every time we hit the track at this stage it’s just another test for us, we could be fastest or last depending how the new car reacts to changes, but we are focusing on the big picture and developing a front running car.”
Opening free practice for the BTCC at Donington will take place at 09.30 next Saturday, 28th April, with session two getting underway at 12.35 and qualifying beginning at 15.20.