Handy Motorsport’s Simon Belcher says he can’t wait to get his pre-season Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship test programme properly underway, following an ‘overwhelming’ start to 2014 at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham.
“Unveiling the car on Thursday really was the start of the season for us”, said the Swindon racer, “I guess I was a bit nervous wondering what people would think to the design we’ve got on the car, but the reaction we had was fantastic – everyone was really positive about it and the interest was huge.
“I just want to get in the car again now and get out there testing. It’s not about tweaking the car at the moment and trying to find the odd tenth of a second, for me it’s all about track time and getting adjusted to the Toyota and getting my head around all the different things with it.”
He added: “We’re going to work hard on being in the best possible position we can when we get to Brands Hatch for the first round at the end of March, so we can give it our best shot. We’re in the lap of the gods really with the weather and what have you during the winter but we’ll be out testing at the start of February one way or another, whether that’s here or in Spain if we have to.”
As well as his official car launch, the 40-year-old had an incredibly busy schedule across all four days of the show at the NEC with an interview on the main Autosport Stage, autograph sessions and a number of other media commitments. Additionally, he was a regular presence on the Legends Cars stand – helping to promote the fast-paced championship where he began his track career.
Seeing, for the first time as a BTCC driver, the true extent of the popularity of the UK’s premier motor racing championship, Belcher was thrilled with the excitement surrounding the unveiling of his touring car and the overall anticipation regarding his debut campaign.
“When I stood on the Dunlop stage with Alan Hyde [BTCC pitlane commentator] and saw all of the people who had come to see the unveiling it was like ‘wow’ as there were so many”, said the two-time Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Champion, “It’s all been really full-on compared to anything I’ve done before, that’s the power of the BTCC.
“We spent a long time working on our livery, trying to make a car that stands out from the crowd and one the fans can pick out easily when it’s on track. We also needed a livery that works for our sponsor logos, so with black background on part of the car and white background on the top half we think we’ve achieved that.”
Fully understanding and acknowledging the depth of competition in the BTCC, the Wiltshire racer is taking his graduation into touring cars one step at a time and aiming to learn as much as possible in his debut season as his Handy Motorsport crew work hand-in-hand with the Speedworks Motorsport squad which built his Toyota Avensis.
“Everyone kept asking me at the launch what my goals are for this season, what am I setting my sights on”, said Belcher, “The honest answer is, this is a learning year. It’s my first season in the BTCC and the start of a three-year programme for us. Our first goal is to score points as the season progresses, which will be hard enough with 32 cars out there, and then take it from there.
“We don’t have experience at Handy Motorsport of running a touring car, so it’s been totally the right thing to do to partner with Speedworks. They built this car and last season they proved, with Dave Newsham, the Toyota can run at the front. We’ve got a capable car and the Speedworks experience is really going to help me.”
Rounds one, two and three of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season will take place on 29th/30th March at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent.