Simon Belcher has announced he will step out of driving duties in 2016 to focus on the development and expansion of his Handy Motorsport squad in the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship.
After two consecutive BTCC campaigns in Handy Motorsport's Toyota Avensis, Belcher is opting to step aside to concentrate on the management side of his team with the imminent announcement of the team's second TOCA BTCC licence.
Handy Motorsport has also confirmed it will announce its second driver in the coming weeks who will team-mate new signing Rob Austin.
“Our long term plan is to become a front running team in, what is, the UK's premier championship and 2016 is going to be such a critical year for Handy Motorsport”, Belcher said. “The plans we have going forward mean I need to make a personal sacrifice, in terms of my own racing ambitions, in order to drive the team forward in a management role.
“I would have loved to embark on my third season in the BTCC after two incredibly enjoyable years behind the wheel to date, and it would have been great having Rob as a team-mate. However, I have a bigger goal for the team so I will sit this year out with the aim of climbing back into the driving seat in 2017 when the expanded team is fully established.”
Belcher, who notched up his first BTCC point in race three of the 2015 season opener at Brands Hatch, will act as reserve driver for Handy Motorsport as well as his role as team manager.
“Our initial focus was to finalise the deal with Rob [Austin] for the coming season, now that's in place we're able to push forward with a view to the second car” he said. “With the pre-approval of the second TBL, we're in a great position to try and make a two-car team a reality this year.”