Touring car race debut just one week away for BTCC rookie Belcher


Six months since first formulating plans to compete in the UK’s biggest motor racing category, Handy Motorsport’s Simon Belcher will realise his dream of lining-up on the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship grid next weekend, 29th/30th March, when the 2014 season gets underway.

Taking place at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent, the first three races of the new BTCC campaign will feature a near-capacity grid of more than 30 cars with the Swindon driver’s eye-catching KÄRCHER liveried Toyota Avensis certain to grab plenty of attention.

Since officially confirming his graduation from the Renault UK Clio Cup feeder series, where he won back-to-back Masters Cup titles in 2012 and 2013, the 40-year-old has been working incredibly hard behind the scenes, as well as behind the wheel, to prepare as well as possible for his BTCC debut.

This week’s officially timed pre-season test and Media Day, which took place at Donington Park in Leicestershire on Tuesday, 18th March, gave Belcher an opportunity to run on track with the majority of his fellow competitors for the first time.

The onset of wet weather early in the afternoon run, however, prevented the Handy Motorsport crew from being able to gain a true picture of progress made with no chance to run on fresh, slick Dunlop tyres after off-track PR activities delayed participation in the test session.

Even so, Belcher completed a total of 51 laps – most on wet-weather rubber – with a best time of 1m15.734 seconds (94.07mph) coming on his eighth lap of the afternoon on old slick tyres. While the lack of dry running wasn’t ideal, the experience in wet conditions was still welcome.

“It was great to see such a huge media turnout at Donington and there were also a lot of dedicated fans there in the afternoon – that’s the power of the BTCC”, said Belcher, “After all of the media activity in the morning, more commercial commitments meant we were slightly later hitting the track in the afternoon than planned so we only got a short run on used slicks before the rain came.

“We waited for the rain to stop but it kept coming, on and off, so we decided to go out on wet tyres and showed some good pace, even lapping quicker than some of the established BTCC runners. It is a lottery what the weather will be like at Brands, so the laps at Donington could prove useful.”

He added: “The hardest thing at Brands is going to be getting clear laps in qualifying with 31 cars on the grid! It’s been an unbelievably busy few months, and everyone involved in the project has been working so hard, but to finally almost be there at the first round is a fantastic feeling – I can’t wait.”

The first free practice session for the BTCC cars at Brands Hatch next Saturday, 29th March, will get underway at 10.00 with the second run following at 12.40 and qualifying – which will be broadcast online at the website - then taking place at 15.40.

On Sunday, 30th March, Belcher’s maiden BTCC race will begin at approximately 11.45 with round two scheduled to start at around 14.20 and round three expected to commence at 17.00. All three races will be screened live on Freeview, digital satellite and cable channels ITV4 and ITV4 HD with the addition of online streaming at the ITV website.