Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, scene of DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing’s maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race win 12 months ago, hosts the finale of the 2018 season this coming weekend – and the team is determined to try and challenge for victory in Kent once again.
Going into rounds 28, 29 and 30, which will be contested on Sunday, 30th September, the Swindon squad has a renewed confidence after a highly competitive outing at Silverstone just over a week ago where ace driver Rob Austin almost secured his second podium of the year.
At the wheel of the hugely popular No.11 Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Evesham racer Austin delivered some star performances last time out – notably surging through the order from 24th to ninth in race two and then taking a top five result in race three, having been in the podium battle throughout.
Confirming the sort of pace and capability which has gradually been unlocked in the Alfa during recent events, heading into the final race meeting of the squad’s first year with its striking Giulietta team principal Simon Belcher says the outfit is very much aiming to end the season in style on Sunday.
One year on from its memorable maiden BTCC victory at Brands Hatch GP Circuit, achieved by Austin and the squad’s since departed Toyota Avensis, the team is resolutely determined to mount the strongest challenge possible for a repeat performance – and thus a first win for the Alfa Romeo.
“Silverstone was obviously a good weekend, we deserved a podium and should have had one, and if the reverse grid had worked in our favour for the last race Rob and the car had the pace to win without a doubt”, said Belcher, “We obviously won the final race of the season last year at Brands GP with the Toyota and I think there’s every possibility we could do it again this time with the Alfa.
“It’s frustrating how the season has been when we started on such a high, fastest at Media Day and then a podium at the first round. We struggled to show the true pace of the car and the package as a whole until recently, but in some instances we’ve needed to go the wrong way to then go in the right direction and make progress.”
He added: “The first year with a brand new car is always tough, but we know we’ve produced a quick touring car in the Alfa Romeo and we’ve demonstrated that time and again in practice. The majority of disappointments have come through on-track incidents, which have been no fault of Rob’s and just a result of poor driving standards from the same few drivers. We’re aiming high for Brands.”
Austin, who is renowned as one of the most fearless and tenacious competitors in the BTCC, is equally as buoyant going into the last event of the first year with the DUO, Northgate and Close Brothers-backed Giulietta, and he too is relishing the chance of trying to add to his victory tally.
Silverstone certainly seemed to mark another key step forward for the team and while Austin’s second podium of 2018 is still proving elusive, the first having come on Brands’ shorter Indy Circuit configuration during the season-opener back in April, the return to Kent could well be a success.
“I’m going to be absolutely gutted if we can’t end this season with another podium”, said the BTCC fan-favourite, “The boys have had such a tough year but have done a great job developing the DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing Alfa Romeo and, through no fault of our own, they haven’t been rewarded with more results through the season.
“Brands Hatch is where we had our last podium and our last win, it’s a good track for us and represents the last opportunity of the year to reward everyone – the team, our sponsors and our loyal fans. We took a step forward with our development at Silverstone and we will try to take that one step further this weekend. I hope we can maintain and improve the great pace that saw us rise from the back of the grid all the way up to fighting for the win at Silverstone, and put it to good use!”
Following the two regular free practice sessions on Saturday, 29th September, qualifying for the final weekend of the BTCC season at Brands Hatch GP Circuit will get underway at 15.20. On Sunday, 30th September, round 28 will begin at 11.35, round 29 will start at 14.25 and round 30 will commence at 17.15. All of the race action will, as ever, be live on ITV4 with streaming at www.itv.com/btcc
2018 BTCC Driver Standings (after Rd27)
15th Rob Austin, 102pts
2018 BTCC Independents Driver Standings (after Rd27)
7th Rob Austin, 196pts