Aron Taylor-Smith’s ambitions of returning to the front of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship edged a step nearer with three impressive top ten finishes at a sun-soaked Thruxton last weekend.
The Irishman made the journey to the high-speed, 2.4-mile Hampshire circuit buoyed after a starring role live on ITV4 last time at Snetterton, and with the Vauxhall Astras historically strong track record at Thruxton in the forefront of his mind.
And that proved to be the case once more in qualifying, with Taylor-Smith securing a season-best eighth, ahead of a host of the championship’s other household names.
After losing ground in the opening exchanges, a typically spirited fightback put Taylor-Smith in the mix come the business end of the first race.
Capitalising on team-mate Mikey Doble’s late-race defensive antics, Taylor-Smith swept to the inside of Allard to pass Ricky Collard’s Toyota, then promoted himself to ninth moments later with a bold dive to the inside of Adam Morgan’s BMW at the complex.
There he would remain, taking the chequered flag just seven tenths adrift of Doble in one of the team’s strongest outings of the season to-date.
That particular inter-team battle swung back in Taylor-Smith’s favour at the start of race two, a better getaway for Aron moving him swiftly up to eighth spot. There, the Astra held its own in a hard-fought but largely uneventful second race.
Taylor-Smith was able to close onto the back of Rory Butcher’s Toyota but, with laps running out, a low-risk opportunity to force the issue never materialised for the four-time race winner. That eighth-place finish meant that, for the second weekend in succession, the CarStore Power Maxed Racing driver would be in the frame for the coveted reverse grid draw.
Although not the ideal scenario, with the maximum twelve cars inverted, Taylor-Smith was at least bumped up to fifth on the grid for the finale, from which he was able to claim a season-best sixth, and as part of the leading gaggle of cars dicing it out for the spoils up front.
As a result, Taylor-Smith leaves Thruxton fifth in the Independents Trophy, and with CarStore Power Maxed Racing third in the Teams’ equivalent, and with every opportunity to make up further ground on the points summit at Oulton Park in a fortnight. [17-18 June].
Aron Taylor-Smith (#40) said:
“It’s been a great day, with three top-ten finishes in what is widely regarded as the pinnacle of touring car racing worldwide. We know this is a strong circuit for the Astra, but I think regardless of that, we’ve also been able to keep moving the package forward into a real sweet spot.
“It’s certainly no small effort, and sixth in particular during the last race is something to be really proud of. This year, for me, is all about just being back in the fight at the front, and we certainly took another important step towards that this weekend.
“But it’s about more than me, and I absolutely love being able to reward the guys and girls at CarStore Power Maxed Racing for all their hard work. They’ve had a rough time in the last few years, and it’s great to see everyone upbeat and enjoying their racing.
“This is the most enjoyable year of racing I’ve had in probably about ten years. I think there’s a bright future ahead, and I can’t wait to keep the momentum rolling when we rock up at Oulton in a couple of weeks and see what we can do.”