Rob Austin topped the times in yesterday’s (27 March) official Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pre-season test session at Donington Park, as the all-new Alfa Romeo Giulietta made its competitive debut.
WIX Racing with Eurotech’s Jack Goff led for much of the running, before Austin hit the front during the final hour in his striking DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing car.
A later flurry saw the Motorbase Fords occupy second and fourth as Tom Chilton and series returnee Sam Tordoff both showed good pace, whilst BMW machinery claimed third and fifth with Colin Turkington heading stablemate Andrew Jordan.
Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Josh Cook was sixth fastest as he made his bow in the Vauxhall Astra, whilst Goff had to settle for seventh at the finish. Goff also brought about a premature end to the session when he spun into the gravel at Redgate in the final ten minutes.
Goff wasn’t the only one to suffer, however, as a number of drivers endured wild moments during the four hours of running. Eurotech team-mate Brett Smith had the most notable incident, with his crash at the bottom of the Craner Curves leading to significant damage to his Honda Civic Type R.
The Ciceley-run Mercedes of Adam Morgan was eighth, ahead of Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram, whilst BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley performed well to claim a 10th spot.
Notable absentees from the top ten included the manufacturer-backed Honda squad as Matt Neal and Dan Cammish ran the brand new Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type Rs in public for the first time.
Reigning champion Ash Sutton had his maiden run of the year in the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing Levorg and could only manage 20th in the final classification.
The competitiveness and calibre of the field was already on show with the top 16 cars separated by less than a second and a huge number laps completed during the day by the full 32-car line-up.
The opening rounds of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will take place at Brands Hatch on 7/8 April.
Rob Austin said: “There are a lot of common components in a touring car but I underestimated how different driving the Alfa Romeo would be. It’s a lot of work to try and figure out a new car. Trying to get the balance to match up that of the Toyota because we really had that car really nailed down. We are certainly getting there though and we seem to be getting good lap times. I think we are in the ballpark, but we won’t know exactly where we stand until we get to Brands Hatch qualifying – at the moment it’s positive and our tails are in the air! I feel like a broken record as I have been a massive fan of the Alfa Romeo since I was a kid and to finally be getting the opportunity to be representing the brand in the BTCC is a dream.”