Team Pyro’s Hand arrives at Croft knowing he is strong at the North Yorkshire circuit, too – he was on the podium in both races there last year. His recent form, he says, will also be something that is preying on outright leader (before dropped scores are considered) Ant Whorton-Eales’s mind…
“Psychologically it’s not so good for him that we’ve taken more than 20 points out of him in four races (45 down to 21) and now got ahead on dropped scores. He knows he will have to respond but that’s going to be the same for anyone else out there,” said Hand.
“I’ve been out-scoring everyone every weekend and I’m focusing on continuing that. If you are in the right place mentally it makes sure you are on the ball every time you go out on track. Personally I feel I’m better prepared than anyone else and it’s all geared towards converting that into race wins and podiums.
“I’m on a high. I believe I’m in the best form I’ve ever been in and that I’m only scratching the surface of where I can be. Sure you can’t be on top form all the time but it’s about making your bad days good and you’re your good days exceptional.”
Much of Hand’s self-belief and mental toughness is undoubtedly down to the work he has done behind the scenes with current BTCC superstar Andy Priaulx and the iZone driver training company that has long been associated with the Guernsey racer’s global successes in touring cars.
Hand’s state of mind was clear to see at Oulton. Tapped into a dramatic slide by Whorton-Eales as they tussled for the race lead he remained unflustered and set about simply re-catching his SV Racing rival.
Hand adds: “Last year I might have retaliated when I caught up to Ant, but this time I didn’t. I’m a changed man and a lot more professional. I’m there to win races and win the championship – I’m not there to make rash decisions on individuals so won’t get emotional or make a bad decision in a car even during those sorts of moments.”
The Nuneaton driver says his extra levels of preparation are essential such is the intense level of competition within the Clio Cup in 2015.
He continued: “The races are very tough and aggressive, but in the right way. It’s just really important to have your wits about you constantly and to make sure you are not in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“People are really pushing on now – it’s that time of the season. Sometimes you have championships where drivers settle for second but nothing could be further than that in the Clio Cup. Everybody is out to win.”