Aron Taylor-Smith made a return to the podium in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship after a starring role in the series’ trip to Knockhill this weekend [12-13 August].
The Irishman returned to the Fife circuit – scene of his BTCC debut back in 2011 – looking to make good on his recent points-scoring form and take that next step in pursuit of silverware.
Taylor-Smith turned in consistently quick laps throughout practice, which should have translated into another qualifying top ten shootout appearance, but rain – then a drying track surface as the session progressed, saw the times tumble, and the Vauxhall Astra came to rest in P12.
Ironically, it would be the weather that caused a dramatic upturn in fortunes for the CarStore Power Maxed Racing squad on race day.
Having started on slicks, the heavens opened after a few laps of the opening contest. Taylor-Smith judged the conditions expertly, and pitted just before half-distance for wet-weather Goodyear tyres.
That proved to be the right choice, and as those who persisted with slicks pitted later, they fell back down the order, with Taylor-Smith eventually taking the chequered flag in sixth spot.
If that boosted morale within the awning, the second race of the weekend raised the mood to fever pitch, as Taylor-Smith bagged fourth in fine fashion, and made a return to the podium with victory among the Independent runners.
First, Taylor-Smith dispatched Pearson’s Hyundai for fifth spot at MacIntyre’s, before sending a sweet move to the inside of team-mate Andrew Watson at Clark’s a few corners later for fourth.
His work was far from done there; a host of the series’ leading lights applied plenty of pressure to the rear of the Vauxhall Astra but, using over a decade of experience in the UK’s premier tin-top series, the 33-year-old held firm to score a season-best result.
For once in 2023, the reverse grid draw fell kindly for Taylor-Smith, keeping him fourth for the final race of the day. Torrential rain fell as the cars lined up for the start, prompting the team to make a late switch to wet-weather tyres, in the hope of a repeat of race one’s heroics.
But a problem after a few laps behind the safety car forced Aron to head for the pit lane, although quick work from the team got him back out on the lead lap.
From adversity, Taylor-Smith battled back to a relative triumph, slicing his way through the order in the tricky conditions to claim the final points-paying position in P15.
As a result, he moves up to 12th in the championship, fourth in the Independents Trophy, and his successes contributed to CarStore Power Maxed Racing cementing second in the Independent Teams’ Championship.
After a two-week turnaround, the series reconvenes back at Donington Park on 26-27 August, for the BTCC’s first trip to the full Grand Prix loop in 20 years.
Aron Taylor-Smith (#40) said:
“What a weekend it has been. I’m feeling really pumped, not just because of the results, but also the performance of the CarStore Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra. This is easily the best this car has gone here in many years, and it was an absolute pleasure to drive.
“Everybody within the team has performed at such a high level, whether that’s in the preparation of the cars, making big strategy calls like we had to in race one, or being quick on their feet in high-pressure moments like the pit stop in race three to get me back out on track.
“So, these results are as much for them and my fantastic team of partners, as they are for me. To be back on the podium in the BTCC was a real pleasure – although the champagne tastes a little more watered down than I remember!
“And even in the last race, to come back from P27 to P15, in such dreadful conditions, really highlights to me the potential we have in this car. It’s clear to me that we would have been in the mix up at the front, had our luck run differently.
“Overall, I’m leaving Knockhill feeling so positive about the car, this team, and the direction we’re heading in at the moment. I can’t wait to get to Donington in two weeks’ time and build on this.”