Rob Austin has downplayed the HMS Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta's eye-catching pre-season form, despite setting the fastest time during the official British Touring Car Championship test at Donington Park earlier this week.

Austin and HMS Racing marked the FWD Giulietta's official maiden track appearance in style after ending the four-hour pre-season test at the top of the timesheets ahead of Motorbase Performance's Tom Chilton in second.

Having negotiated the greasy conditions during the opening half of the running, Austin hit the front during the final hour of the session with a 1 minute 10.074s lap.

"It doesn't mean anything these days, does it? We're pretty sure everyone is running ballast and not running new tyres," Austin told

"We had to put a new set of tyres on because we'd run out of used tyres. On the plus side, although we've run new tyres, we don't feel we've shown our hand yet.

"We're not going to know what's going to happen until we get to qualifying at Brands Hatch. But we're certainly confident going into it, that's for sure."

Having conducted a comprehensive pre-season programme, Austin admitted getting the balance of the Alfa Romeo in the right window has been more of a challenge than anticipated.

Nevertheless, buoyed by the Giulietta's inherent pace, Austin is confident the Alfa Romeo will serve as a stronger package he's been accustomed to in recent years. 

"I probably underestimated how much work it was going to take to get the balance back as to how on top of it we were with the Toyota," Austin continued.

"Although it has the same underpinnings, we've got a different wheelbase and different centre of gravity. 

"It's really thrown it off and it's taken more work than anticipated to get it bang on and we're nowhere near there yet. So to be doing the lap times now bodes very well for our championship.

"This time round I think I've got a much better tool for the job."