Ash Hand picking up the pace in Renault Sport Trophy rookie season

Ash Hand picking up the pace in Renault Sport Trophy rookie season

20.05.2016: • Warwickshire ace fast getting to grips with new challenge • Full house of top ten finishes from

•    Warwickshire ace fast getting to grips with new challenge

•    Full house of top ten finishes from early-season outings

•    BRDC Rising Star has his sights set firmly on the podium




Ash Hand has admitted that his first couple of race weekends in the Renault Sport Trophy have been something of an eye-opener, but as he increasingly settles into the groove in the fiercely-disputed pan-European series, the talented young Nuneaton ace is confident that big results lie just around the corner.
 

Hand has graduated to the single-make championship off the back of a concerted title bid in the Renault UK Clio Cup last year that yielded more victories, pole positions and fastest laps than any of his rivals behind the wheel of his Sigma and QTS-backed car.
 

The 22-year-old Warwickshire star concluded an 11th-hour deal to contest the 2016 Renault Sport Trophy with Italian outfit Oregon Team, but with no opportunity for any meaningful pre-season testing and no prior track knowledge, he travelled to the Motorland Aragón curtain-raiser in Spain very much on the back foot in relation to his high-calibre adversaries – some of whom boast GP3 Series, Le Mans 24 Hours and even Formula 1 résumés and the majority of whom have far greater experience of Renault Sport Racing’s potent, 550bhp R.S. 01 prototype.
 

A solid run for Hand and team-mate David Fumanelli in the 70-minute ‘Pro-Am’ encounter saw the pairing overcome opening lap damage to fight back and secure sixth spot amongst the 14 protagonists.


The highly-rated Maple Park hotshot then qualified an impressive ninth for his first ‘Am’ race – the best-placed of the three Oregon entries – and although an early collision prompted a drive-through penalty, a succession of competitive lap times enabled him to recover his starting position by the chequered flag.
 

Next on the calendar was Imola – formerly home to the San Marino Grand Prix – where Hand and Fumanelli ran as high as third in the endurance outing before contact curtailed their charge and relegated them to sixth.


The Andy Priaulx Sports Management (APSM) protégé then nailed the rolling start – another new element for him this year – to gain ground in the ‘Am’ sprint race the following day, lapping as quickly as the front-runners until gearshift issues intervened and restricted him to eighth in the final reckoning.
 

That result nonetheless represented Hand’s fourth top ten finish from as many starts – leaving him ninth in the ‘Am’ classification – and with two race weekends now under his belt, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star is eagerly anticipating the remainder of the campaign, which will continue at Austria’s Red Bull Ring in mid-July.
 

“It’s been a massive learning curve so far,” he reflected, “but everybody at Renault and Oregon Team has been extremely welcoming and Giorgio, Jerry and all the guys have made it easy for me to settle in – they’re even teaching me Italian!
 

“I think the toughest aspect has been trying to learn new circuits with a car that’s also new to me, meaning I have no references and no idea about how the car will react – it really has been a case of straight in at the deep end!


The more I get to grips with everything, though, the more comfortable and confident I’m beginning to feel. It’s fair to say the level of competition is higher than I’d expected it to be, but that’s a positive because it will push me to work harder and raise my own game so I progress faster.
 

“The R.S. 01 is obviously a much bigger and heavier car than what I’ve been used to racing before, and a completely different animal to drive – the Clio is a light and nimble front-wheel-drive ‘pocket rocket’, whereas this is rear-wheel-drive and generates far more power, downforce and aerodynamic grip, which has been a lot to get my head around. It’s a purebred GT racer and a truly awesome piece of kit.
 

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is getting the R.S. 01 to dance the way I want it to – you really need to be at one with the car in this championship to be in with a chance.


 I’m still exploring its limits and getting to know how late I can brake and how hard I can push it.
 

“I felt I showed some good speed at Aragón and was able to get some overtaking practice in, and Imola is such an iconic circuit and a real drivers’ track that rewards an aggressive, attacking style, which suited me down to the ground.


I genuinely connected with the place, too; I went for a walk around it on my own when I got there, and it actually made me feel quite emotional – it was a very spiritual moment that really made me catch my breath.
 

“We’ve not been all that far from the outright pace over the opening two rounds, so the potential is unquestionably there.


 I’m under absolutely no illusions that I still have plenty to learn, but I’m improving each time I go out and taking a lot of encouragement from that.


I’m impatient because I’m used to being on the podium and that’s where I want to be again – but it will come...”



Russell Atkins  Dutch Photo Agency

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/ash-hand-renault-sport-trophy-rookie-season---149375.html

20.05.2016 / MaP

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