The British Touring Car Championship visited the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone, for the penultimate round of 2022 championship and it was a superb outing for Taylor-Smith with a brace of top ten finishes and a trio of points scoring results.
Silverstone has always been a happy hunting ground for the Irish ace as he notched up his first ever BTCC podium at the iconic circuit in his debut season. This weekend is always the most popular on the calendar and Taylor-Smith was eager to put on a good show for all of his guests.
Taylor-Smith commented: “I always love coming to Silverstone as the crowds turn out in the masses as it’s one of the best circuits to race at on the calendar. It is always action packed as the margins between the cars come down to the thousands of a second. The circuit has always been kind to me and I think it should play to the Cupra’s strengths.”
The weekend started off with a very strong performance with Taylor-Smith running comfortably within the top ten, less than 0.3 of a second off the quickest time in free practise. The team continued to dial in the chassis ahead of the ever-important qualifying session, which determines the grid formation for the first race. The team have worked tirelessly during the four-week gap to get a better understanding of the suspension and damper configurations that meant aspirations were high ahead of qualifying. In typical touring car fashion, qualifying resembled more a race than ever before as cars tussled for track position in hopes of picking up a slim stream. Taylor-Smith was right amongst the mix of this and unfortunately contact from another driver, as well as being blocked on this second qualifying lap halted all progress.
Taylor-Smith commented: “Let's call a spade a spade, that wasn’t an ideal session! The car has the pace as proven by our ideal lap time. Effectively if you piece together the lap corner by corner then my lap would have been good enough to start on the front row but we had a few ‘altercations’ during the session which saw me being pushed off track and blocked. That is life and as always we have three races tomorrow to make up for it. Yes, I would prefer to be starting further up the grid but I am really confident in the car as I know we have great race pace.”
Never did Taylor-Smith speak truer words as he put on an absolute touring car master class in race one. The No.40 Cupra was amongst the fastest cars on track, despite being caught in constant battles with others as he carved his way to through the pack to an incredible 15th position at the finish and more importantly, a return into the championship points. The fans favourite managed to jump a noteworthy eight places over the course of the first race, making his performance the best of any driver on the grid.
Taylor-Smith commented: “This is exactly why I love racing at Silverstone! That stands are jam packed with fans and the racing is closer than anywhere else. The Cupra was electric in that race and it made my life easy when picking up places to move into the coveted points. The team have done a superb job and I really feel as though we have something special brewing.”
The goal for race two was to hopefully finish inside the top twelve and have a chance to catch the reverse grid for race three and with Taylor-Smith lining up in 15th this was very possible for the first time this season. He managed to get another superb start and jumped two cars immediately on the first lap, which already put him on the chuff of the reverse grid draw. The progress didn’t stop here as he continued to put pressure on multiple race winners and made his way by them place by place to break inside the top ten for the first time since Oulton Park. Equally as impressive to his top ten finishes were the lap times that Taylor-Smith was delivering as they were amongst the quickest of anyone during the race.
Taylor-Smith commented: “I had my eyes on 12th before the start of the race as I would do anything to catch the reverse grid but the car was unbelievably fast and gave me a chance to move further up the order. This championship is the best of the best and to come away with another top ten is nothing short of incredible considering the woes of qualifying. I honestly feel as though we have a package that will challenge for a race win if we are lucky enough to catch the reverse grid.”
Lady luck was not on Taylor-Smith’s side with the draw for the reverse grid as only the top eight were reversed meaning that he lined up in 10th for race three. However, this was not a complete loss as another top ten finish would be a very just reward for the fans favourite work so far on race day. Another incredible start from No.40 saw him immediately jump up the running order as he battled on the chuff on the top six for the opening eight laps. It was an incredible display from all drivers as they ran nose to tail at speeds in excessive of 130 MPH, constantly swapping places and exchanging paint as they battled away. The Irish ace ran as high as seventh at moments before a rather robust move from another driver saw him drop by to a still incredible 10th position. He continued to fight tooth & nail to make further progress but another top ten finish was a very just reward for the Irish man.
Taylor-Smith commented: “That was the best race that I can remember in a long time! It was a show stopping BTCC encounter and at times, I even thought that we had a crack at a podium… That’s how close the racing was! It feels like a dream to have another top ten finish off the back of a very tough qualifying session but again, that is thanks to the team and my car crew. They have done an outstanding job today and given me exactly what I needed in order to be able to race against the very best touring car drivers in the world. Three points finishes is something that we can all be very proud of.”
The day wrapped up as Taylor-Smiths most successful weekend to date in the Cupra since his return to the BTCC and is the exact reward for all of the hard work both from the team and driver alike. It's a short two-week turnaround before the season finale at Brands Hatch on October 8th & 9th. The progress hopes to continue at the team’s home track as Taylor-Smith continues to develop the Cupra.
Taylor-Smith commented: “I can't remember leaving a race weekend this happy with a chassis in many many many years. We have unlocked a huge amount of performance that should put us in a very strong position at Brands Hatch. The GP circuit is a real chassis testing circuit and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve there to finish the season on a high.”