EVESHAM'S Rob Austin underlined Handy Motorsport’s potential for the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season with an outstanding performance during officially timed testing at Donington Park.

Joining 29 of the other competitors confirmed for this year’s BTCC, which gets underway at Brands Hatch in Kent next month, Austin worked conscientiously through the team’s planned programme and the end result of second fastest confirmed pre-season pace.

At the wheel of his striking Toyota Avensis, the 36-year-old posted a best lap of one minute 10.109 seconds which placed him a mere 0.1 seconds shy of the top spot on the timesheets for Swindon-based Handy.

“Donington has been a good indicator but it’s by no means the full picture,” reflected Austin.

“We were confident we had good pace in the car and the test proved it but I know there’s no way all of the works Hondas, Subarus and BMWs will be outside the top 10 come Brands as they were at media day.

“Our plan was to just go about our test programme as though nobody was watching and at the end of the day see how we stacked up.

"To be P2 was a pleasant surprise considering I had made such a mess of our new tyre run that we had actually set our fastest time of the day on old tyres so there was plenty left on the table.”

A number of the big guns failed to show their true pace with champion driver Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal finishing down the order for Pershore's Halfords Yuasa Racing in 11th and 14th respectively.

For Bidford-on-Avon's Power Maxed Racing Tom Chilton was eighth and Senna Proctor 23rd.