Aron Taylor-Smith scored his first outright podium in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship for seven years with a stunning display at Donington Park’s GP circuit last weekend [26-27 August].
A return to the podium as an Independent race winner last time out at Knockhill gave both driver and team plenty to be optimistic about as the UK’s premier touring car championship returned to the full Grand Prix layout at Donington for the first time in 21 years.
After two solid free practice sessions to kick off the on-track action, Taylor-Smith scored a season-best qualifying result of fifth – but the timing screens didn’t tell the whole story.
Whilst pushing hard on his second run, the Irishman made contact with the tyre stack on the inside kerb of the Fogarty Esses chicane, damaging the right-front of the Vauxhall Astra.
Taylor-Smith pitted immediately for repairs, and quick work from the CarStore Power Maxed Racing mechanics returned the #40 machine to the fray, with time remaining for one final flying effort.
And boy, did Taylor-Smith fly, plucking a lap seemingly from nowhere to move from P22 to an eventual fifth on the grid, putting the 33-year-old in the frame for a successful Sunday in front of a capacity crowd – plus millions more at home on ITV4.
Race day brought about overcast skies, and the forecasted rain arrived prior to the start of the opening race, moving the entire field to Goodyear wet tyres.
Taylor-Smith was bested on the run down to the first corner by Adam Morgan’s fast-starting BMW, but responded immediately, and re-took fifth spot with a bold dive to the inside at the Melbourne hairpin.
Both cars would fall behind a charging Jake Hill in the latter stages, but sixth was still enough to secure Taylor-Smith a second Independents win in successive race meetings.
The circuit had dried by the time race two rolled around, and Taylor-Smith’s Vauxhall struggled to adapt to the conditions. Aron put in a typically stoic defence to round out the top ten and put himself in the frame for the coveted reverse grid draw.
At long last, luck fell the Dubliner’s way, reversing Taylor-Smith to third on the grid from the finale. From there, he turned in one of the drives of his career to score his first outright BTCC podium in seven years.
A robust defence into Redgate on the first lap kept Taylor-Smith ahead of Morgan on this occasion, then another lunge into the Melbourne hairpin put the Vauxhall second past Tom Chilton’s Hyundai.
The jubilation in the garage would be short-lived, however, as Rory Butcher’s Toyota hung out around the outside of the Craner Curves to move alongside Taylor-Smith. Opting for discretion as the better part of valour, Aron conceded into the Old Hairpin, maintaining third.
Race leader Daniel Lloyd had scarpered clear in the opening laps but suffered a cruel driveshaft failure just a few corners from the chequered flag to promote Taylor-Smith to a stunning second.
2,555 days since he last stood on the overall BTCC podium, Taylor-Smith returned to the rostrum to collect second spot, and another Independent victory to a warm reception from the gathered crowd.
His efforts across the weekend have moved him up to second in the Independent Drivers’ Championship and cemented the same position for CarStore Power Maxed Racing in the Independent Teams’ competition.
Following a three-week break, the series reconvenes at Silverstone’s National circuit for the penultimate round of the season on 23-24 September.
Aron Taylor-Smith (#40) said:
“Coming into the weekend, I had a feeling this could be a special one, based on our performance here during the Goodyear tyre test.
“But, to come away with two Independent wins and an outright podium is something I’m immensely proud of.
“It’s an absolute testament to everything that CarStore Power Maxed Racing have done with this Vauxhall Astra, in giving me a package that can compete at the front of the field with the best of the best.
“It’s not lost on me how difficult that is to achieve – I have seven years without a podium as a reference point!
“Without Adam’s belief in me, without the support of Martin and the whole team, there’s no way I’d be doing what I am doing. I feel like they have resurrected my touring car career and I couldn’t be any happier.
“We’re heading to Silverstone next, which is one of the circuit’s I’d circled in my calendar as one where the car has been historically strong, and I think will be again, so I think we can kick on from this and enjoy a really strong end to the season.”