Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship team DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing will go into the second half of the 2018 season at Snetterton 300 Circuit next weekend, 28th/29th July, with high hopes after a strong two-day test outing at the Norfolk track last week.
Joining its BTCC rivals for the annual Dunlop tyre test at on Wednesday, 11th July, and Thursday, 12th July, the Swindon team and driver Rob Austin made good progress with the No.11 Alfa Romeo Giulietta and ended the two days happy with their development.
On day one, Austin completed the two sessions sixth overall on combined times with a best lap of 1m57.120 seconds (91.25mph) which made him the third fastest of the non-Honda Civic runners, and the Evesham racer continued to lap competitively on day two.
Ending Thursday morning’s run 12th overall, with a time of 1m57.391 seconds (91.04mph), in the afternoon he returned to the top six in that session with a slight improvement of 1m57.242 seconds (91.16mph), just shy of his Wednesday best.
“The tyre test was very productive for us”, said Austin, “It gave us opportunity to try lots of things we haven’t had chance to so far, and learn what these changes do. We didn’t have the eureka moment that we were perhaps hoping for, but the pace in the car is very strong and we are in a good place as a team entering the second half of the season.”
As well as marking the start of the second half of the 2018 campaign, next weekend’s race meeting at Snetterton will also be notable for the special ‘Diamond Double’ race which has been organised as part of the BTCC’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
The third of the event’s three races, round 18, will be contested over a distance of 60 miles and will therefore be around double the usual duration. Notably, all competitors will run ballast-free, there will be a standalone qualifying session and the race will award double championship points.
“I have high hopes for Snetterton and with good reason”, commented Austin, “We may not have had great results this year overall, but initially we were in a development process and for the last three events we have had a very competitive car that should have been on the podium a number of times.
“It’s no secret we’ve had the most horrific luck I have ever experienced in my 27 years of racing. I’m the sort of guy who believes you make your own luck normally, but the issues that have held us back have been completely out of my hands – even with the benefit of hindsight there is nothing I can put them down to other than just really crappy luck! I’m hoping Snetterton can be a turning point.”
He added: “The 60-mile race could be interesting. I expect it to be won by a RWD car but I am looking forward to the challenge. Fitness will play a part, especially in the heat we’ve been having, but I am better prepared than I ever have been with that. As I like a very oversteery car we have traditionally been very kind to our tyres compared to others so, potentially, it could be good for us.”
Following the visit to Snetterton last week, Austin and his DUO, Northgate and Close Brothers-backed Alfa Romeo headed to the world-famous Goodwood Festival of Speed, in the grounds of Goodwood House in West Sussex, for the 25th anniversary staging of the event last weekend.
Taking part in the specially organised ‘BTCC Shoot-Out’, Austin – making his first appearance at Goodwood – took to the 1.16-mile hillclimb course to give the tens of thousands of fans a close-up view of his glorious Alfa Romeo.
“Goodwood was a fantastic event and one I would like to do again, but be a little more prepared for”, reflected Austin, “I didn’t have chance to do any prep work and had literally no idea which way the course went and, to compound that, we weren’t able to do a lot of the running. So, I just took it easy on the two runs we did and kept it out of the wall. I’d love to have a proper run next year!”
BTCC boss Gow tests Alfa Romeo for special media feature
In addition to the serious business of the recent Snetterton test, DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing also partnered with the BTCC and series director Alan Gow at the Norfolk track for an upcoming feature in the Autosport and Motorsport Newspublications.
Providing Gow with an opportunity to experience a modern-day BTCC car, no challenger on the current grid is newer than the No.11 Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Australian enjoyed a half-hour outing in the HMS Racing built machine – with multiple race winner Austin on-hand to give plenty of advice.
“I have been offering Alan [Gow] a run in my cars for several years now and Simon [Belcher – HMS Racing team principal] was keen to see how he got on as well, so it was nice we finally managed to organise it and get him out there”, said Austin.
“Alan’s experience in the Citroen C1 he’s raced paid dividends and he by no means embarrassed himself – it’s given him an insight into what a modern BTCC car is like. The Citroen he raced earlier this year had air conditioning so his first words to me, while dripping with sweat, were ‘it’s a hostile environment in there”. I think he may have a better appreciation of how hard we have to work!”
Following the usual pair of free practice sessions for the BTCC at Snetterton next Saturday, 28th July, the regular qualifying period will get underway at 15.10 with qualifying for the ‘Diamond Double’ race scheduled for 17.40.
On Sunday, 29th July, round 16 is scheduled to start at 11.30, round 17 will follow at 13.50 and the 60th anniversary race, round 18, will wrap-up the weekend’s action at 17.15. All three encounters will be screened live on ITV4 and streamed online at www.itv.com/btcc
2018 BTCC Driver Standings (after Rd15)
17th Rob Austin, 51pts
2018 BTCC Independents Driver Standings (after Rd15)
8th Rob Austin, 102pts
2018 BTCC Team Standings (after Rd15)
15th DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing, 50pts
2018 BTCC Independents Team Standings (after Rd15)
10th DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing, 111pts