The British Touring Championship took centre stage at a scorching Snetterton with another action packed weekend that saw Taylor-Smith rack up his best qualifying result of the season to date while battling temperatures in excessive of thirty degrees over the course of the weekend.
The Irish ace was confident heading into the longest circuit on the BTCC calendar as the team began to unlock some of the CUPRA’s one lap pace which was shown by Taylor-Smith topping the time sheets at the last race weekend. The race weekend started off in it’s unusual fashion where drivers get to complete two forty-minute practise sessions that allow them to acclimate to the scorching temperatures and also fine tune their machinery ahead of the all important qualifying session. The CUPRA has been renowned for it’s incredible race pace as demonstrated by Taylor-Smith carving his way through the pack during previous race days but one key area of focus is the cars ‘one lap’ pace in which the team have been focusing on since the mid season break. A change of engineering personal paid dividends at Knockhill when Taylor-Smith was fastest in practise and this form hoped to be a marker for what is to come over the second half of the season.
Taylor-Smith commented: “The CUPRA has to be one of the best BTCC chassis’ that I have driven in race trim and we switched focus at the half way point to try and extract more qualifying pace from the chassis. We have a fresh perspective on how the chassis should be engineered and straight away at Knockhill it came alive. I think we can continue this form for the rest of the season and I’m excited to see what we can achieve.”
However, bad luck struck Taylor-Smith before free practise even began after a problem was discovered with the new M-Sport engine that was fitted prior to the race weekend. The discovery of a late oil leak meant that Taylor-Smith had to sit out free practise one and the majority of free practise two as his team carried out vital repair to car 40.
Taylor-Smith commented: “We have changed a lot on the chassis ahead of this weekend based off what we learnt at Knockhill and having to miss vital time in free practise does put us on the back foot but that is life. The car crew are doing absolutely everything in their power to put these problems behind us but unfortunately we go into qualifying somewhat blind as to what to expect from the chassis.
Despite these issues, Taylor-Smith was to go on to achieve his best qualifying of the season, which once again proves that the progress has continued on the Cupra. A lap of the three-mile circuit at Snetterton is known for being one of the most demanding on a chassis with both high and low speed sectors pushing a chassis like no other circuit. Given the limited running throughout the day, Taylor-Smith was still able to record a lap time within 0.3 of a second of the top ten which saw him line up in an incredible 16th position for race one. But most importantly and to the teams delight; record his best qualifying result of the 2022 season to date.
Taylor-Smith commented: “Due to a number of issues outside of the teams control we had to go into qualifying with very limited running, maybe only four or five meaningful laps at the most. I knew that we would be on the back foot so to sit here with our best qualifying result of the season is nothing short of incredible. It now puts us in a very strong position to fight for points in all three races and you never know what could happen for the reverse grid. This is exactly what we needed after a tough day.”
Taylor-Smith lined up alongside multiple race and championship winner, Gordon Shedden, for race one and in typical fashion got a lightening start to jump a number of cars through both turn one and two. At one point he was in a high of 12th position before being pushed wide by an overly aggressive move from another driver. This say him drop by down to 15th with a damaged cooling package that he had to nurse home to finish in a challenging 17th position but more importantly a very strong 6th position in the independents championship.
Taylor-Smith commented: “We got an absolute rocket of a start and straight away were running in a very strong position. It’s always so frustrating when another driver makes a stupid move that ends up damaging your car and then you have to limp it home. Sometimes it feels as though if I didn’t have bad luck then I would have no luck at all!”
The Irishman put the battles of race one behind him for race two and once again showed his talent on the opening lap while we battled to the cuff of the top ten. The battles raged on throughout the duration of the race that saw car 40 putting on a valiant fight that caught the attention of the ITV cameras for the majority of the race. The cameras followed Taylor-Smith over the course of the twelve lap race as he was enthralled in a race long battle as cars fought for every position possible in the 32-degree heat. As seen by the millions of viewers during the live TV broadcast on centre stage ITV, Taylor-Smith crossed the line in an eventual 16th position while being the top performing CUPRA and also finishing in a very strong sixth position in the independents standings.
Taylor-Smith commented: “I feel as though I didn’t have five seconds to myself during that race! It was a combination of being on the attack and being tactically defensive but if nothing else, it made for some good TV while I nearly melted away in the car! The fact is we have a car that is capable of the top ten but once again, after a great start I fell victim to some overzealous moves on the opening lap, which saw me, drop back down the standings. However, it was still one of our strongest relative pace races of the season to date and I feel confident of points in the final race.”
Unfortunately a run of bad luck seemed to continue for Taylor-Smith for race three. The car crew were ready to go to the grid while during the final stages of the run up procedure a split fuel line was discovered on car 40 which meant that the team had to replace one of the major components prior to the start of the race. However, there simply wasn’t enough time to get this work completed before the start of the race which meant that the session was merely a test run for Taylor-Smith without having the opportunity to fight for points after starting from the pit lane.
Taylor-Smith commented: “Ugh, when it rains it pours! Obviously I am disappointed to miss the start of race three but I’m not letting that detract from what has been an enormously successful weekend. We have started to unlock the one lap pace of our car as proven both at Knockhill and with our best qualifying of the season to date. That is a massive step forward for us as a team despite our insanely bad luck! We will build on this and bounce back even stronger in a couple of weeks at Thruxton.”
The BTCC has another tight turnaround with the cars heading back to the UK’s fasted circuit of Thruxton in a matter of two weeks where Taylor-Smith hopes to bounce back into the points after a very strong showing on the first visit to the circuit earlier this year.