SIMON Belcher of Handy Motorsport says he is grateful to the British Touring Car fans for helping his team get back on track after the crash at Thruxton that wrote off his car.

Belcher and his Swindon-based team were only in their third race of the season when the crash made necessary a complete rebuild of the car.

The spectacular accident came after failure of the front right suspension on Belcher’s Toyota Avensis. It saw the car career off Thruxton’s high-speed Church right-hander and disappear into the woodland surrounding the track.

The crash, though very serious, fortunately left Belcher largely unscathed.

It also led to the 40-year-old driver attaining cult status after his team started producing self deprecating t-shirts asking fans to help find Belcher in the woods to raise money to rebuild the car Belcher is reflective about the incident now but says without the safety specifications of the touring cars the accident could well have been deadly.

“It’s a testament to these cars and the strength of them and had that been a road car that would have been a fatality but these cars are built to withstand that kind of crash,” said Belcher.

“The fans were unbelievable, on the Sunday night (after the crash) someone said ‘you should sell t-shirts’.

So we did that, we sold the t-shirts and signed pieces of the car on eBay raised over £5,000 from the fans, without that it could have put the team in jeopardy.

“For any team coming into a sport at this level it is very demanding on their budget in their first year because of the initial overheads, we’ve had all of those now but it’s not cheap.

“The budget we’ve got is between £300,000 and £400,000 and though we worked hard with sponsors we didn’t have a lot for excess.

“For that amount of damage we didn’t have the budget.

“So a huge thank you must go to the fans but we’re still suffering financially from it, £5,000 is a trickle in the pond but we’re working with a few new sponsors and hopefully it will work out.”

Handy and Belcher take on the next round of the BTCC at Croft this weekend, qualifying can be streamed on on Saturday from 3.40pm and the races are live on ITV4 on Sunday from 11am.

Belcher’s t-shirts are still available at: