|Picturesque Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire hosts the fourth event of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season this coming weekend, 9th/10th June, where DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing is determined to showcase a key mix of both consistency and potential.
Over the course of the first three BTCC race meetings of 2018, at Brands Hatch, Donington Park and, most recently, ultra-fast Thruxton, the Swindon squad and fan-favourite racer Rob Austin have been working tirelessly on the development of the glorious No.11 Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Beginning the season with only a couple of days of running under their belts, meaning the team was somewhat on the back foot compared to its rivals, the newly constructed Alfa Romeo went on to exceed all expectations during the championship curtain-raiser at Brands.
Scorching to an incredible podium in round three, having led the race early on, Evesham driver Austin delivered a superb performance at the wheel of the Giulietta and really did get the campaign off to the best possible start.
Mixed outings at Donington, where Austin celebrated his landmark 200th BTCC race start, and also at Thruxton impacted the team’s forward momentum, but the multiple touring car race winner is sure the undulating and challenging Oulton Park could provide a strong turning point.
“After a respectable start to the season we lost our way with the set-up of the car, but we feel very confident we are back on track now and we know if we can get the DUO Motorsport with HMS Alfa Romeo working then we will be challenging for podiums and wins”, said a positive Austin.
“My race engineer Matt and I have put in days of hard work trawling through every bit of data we have gathered so far this season, and we really feel we have isolated where we have been going wrong. It won’t be an instant fix, but if we are correct and manage to dial the car in quickly then we will be on for a strong weekend at Oulton.”
He added: “It’s a great circuit, one of the best! It’s where I won my first ever car race 21 years ago and I’ve also visited the BTCC podium at Oulton so it holds fond memories for me as well as being a fantastic circuit to drive – I can’t wait to get going!”
Britain’s biggest motor racing championship has a long-standing reputation for providing incredibly close and competitive action but, in 2018, the margins are tinier than they ever have been – mere fractions of a second in qualifying, for example, can dictate the entirety of a race weekend and that’s precisely what happened to DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing at Donington and Thruxton.
Even so, the steps being made with the Alfa Romeo’s handling and set-up mean the team goes to Oulton Park a few days from now knowing a smooth and unhindered run in qualifying can set the team up perfectly for its best outing since the season-opener.
Austin thrills Thruxton crowds during 50th anniversary celebrations
This past weekend at Thruxton, Austin was back on track at the super-fast Hampshire circuit as part of the venue’s special 50th anniversary event where a whole host of motorsport legends gathered to celebrate the landmark occasion.
Conducting demo runs at the wheel of his Alfa Romeo Giulietta BTCC car, Austin formed part of a spectacular line-up featuring sensational machinery dating back to the 1960s from all aspects of the sport, including the world of Formula One.
Notably too, the brand new Thruxton Centre – which spectators at last month’s BTCC race meeting had the opportunity to see for the first time – was officially opened by 1992 Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell and legendary commentator Murray Walker OBE.
“It was an honour to be asked by Thruxton to demo the Alfa Romeo at the weekend and help celebrate the circuit’s 50th anniversary”, reflected Austin, “Thruxton is an awesome place, a circuit that rewards bravery and one that’s totally unique in British motorsport.
“The venue itself is coming on leaps and bounds with its new hospitality suite, as well as significant upgrades to safety. It appears to be going from strength to strength in spite of heavy noise restrictions that have seen other circuits suffer. It’s somewhere we should all feel proud of and support where we can, so it was great to see so many people come out to show support.”
Looking ahead to Oulton Park, opening BTCC practice will get underway at 09.30 on Saturday, 9th June, with session two following at 12.10 and qualifying, which will be streamed live online at the www.itv.com/btcc website, beginning at 15.20.
On Sunday, 10th June, round 10 of the BTCC season will begin the day’s track action at 12.20 with round 11 following at 14.50 and round 12 scheduled to begin at 17.05. As well as being streamed online, all three encounters will be screened live across the UK on ITV4.
2018 BTCC Driver Standings (after Rd9)
15th Rob Austin, 35pts
2018 BTCC Independents Driver Standings (after Rd9)
8th Rob Austin, 69pts
2018 BTCC Team Standings (after Rd9)
15th DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing, 34pts
2018 BTCC Independents Team Standings (after Rd9)
10th DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing, 74pts