Handy Motorsport’s Simon Belcher declared himself “pretty happy” after a positive afternoon of testing at Donington Park National Circuit today, Tuesday, 24th March, during the annual pre-season Media Day for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Marking the start of the final countdown towards the eagerly anticipated opening event of the 2015 season at Brands Hatch less than a fortnight from now, today’s important outing was the first group test of the year for the BTCC contenders.
Swindon racer Belcher ended the afternoon inside the top 20, with a time significantly faster than he managed to produce on his officially timed BTCC test debut during the corresponding event in 2014, but his involvement ended prematurely when the driveshaft on his Toyota Avensis failed.
Even so, the Webb Garden Power Equipment and KÄRCHER backed driver managed to complete over 50 laps of the 1.98-mile Leicestershire track and posted a best time of 1m12.726 seconds (97.96mph) – the highest placed of the four Toyota runners.
“It’s been quite a good day overall, although I’m probably a bit disappointed where we ended up on the timesheets”, said Belcher, “Had we not had the diff problem, we would definitely have been quicker and we didn’t run any new tyres either so there was much more time to be found.
“If you look back to the last Media Day this time last year, 12 months on we can see the lap time difference is mega. The car is really good to drive and if you feel you’re getting out of shape, it’s much more manageable now. We were around 16th on the times a lot of the day, which was where we wanted to be, but then others had more track time and tyres when we had to pack-up early.”
Having made good strides with the set-up of his striking black, white and green Avensis over the winter, not least since the arrival of renowned engineer Geoff Kingston, Belcher will benefit from additional upgrades to the car before the championship curtain-raiser over Easter weekend.
Once again this year, the BTCC is set to provide superb grids and sensational action with a capacity registration of 32 drivers revealed at Media Day. For Belcher’s second season in the UK’s biggest and most popular motor racing category, the 41-year-old is aiming to start how he means to go on – with a career-best BTCC performance at Brands Hatch.
“Our best qualifying last year was 25th and the best finish was 18th, so the first goal has to be to try and qualify in the top 20 and then get a finish in the top 15”, he added, “I’m pleased with what we did at Media Day – we’re not far off where we should be.”
Rounds one, two and three of the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season will take place over the weekend 4th/5th April at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent.