The first round of the 2022 British Touring Car Championship took place over the weekend of the 23rd & 24th of April at Donington Park. The eagerly awaited debut of the hybrid regulations catered for some of the most exciting racing that the championship has seen in many years with teams and drivers alike adapting to the new era of the BTCC. The Juratek supported driver, Taylor-Smith, did not disappoint at the opening round and put on a stellar performance to bring home three points finishes upon the Cupra’s hybrid debut marking him as a driver to watch throughout the season.
Fans flocked to the Derby based circuit on practise and qualifying day as the anticipation was at an all time high for the start of the season. The Saturday of each race weekend allows drivers to test and develop their machinery to the track conditions on the day before entering qualifying that determines the starting order for race one. For those of you who are new to the BTCC the series has an action packed race day with three races on Sunday where qualifying dictates the starting order for race one. From there, your finishing positioning in race one determines where you line up for race two and race three has the added variable of a reverse grid where a number is drawn at random to reverse the starting order from those who finished between sixth and twelfth for the final race of the day. The Juratek BTCC car was looking strong throughout each of the practise sessions on Saturday with the Irish ace showcasing lap times capable of putting him inside the coveted top ten in qualifying. However, disaster struck in the all-important qualifying session for Taylor-Smith as on the initial run he reported an engine issue over the radio to his team of mechanics and engineers. Unfortunately this brought an end to his first chance at a top ten qualifying positioning in the Cupra as the engine was unable to run for the sessions meaning that he would start 22nd on the grid for race one.
Taylor-Smith commented: To say that I am disappointed is an understatement after qualifying. It is such a shame to not be able to show the world how good of a job that everyone in Team Hard has done in the first qualifying of the year but that is life. Unfortunately a third party component which controls the turbo boost failed on my second lap which meant that I never really got the opportunity to set a lap time. The only silver lining is that I know that we have a very competitive car and this is the BTCC, anything can happen on race day and all we can do is focus on moving forward and picking up some decent points.”
Lining up in a lowly 22nd for race one allowed Taylor-Smith to put on a master class show on how to race in the British Touring Car Championship. The Juratek supported driver got a superb start and first lap to see him move forward into the teens but the progress didn't stop there. He continued to battle his way through the pack and crossed the line in an eventual 13th, much to his teams delighted, as there are points on offer to the top fifteen finishers. Taylor-Smith managed to carve his way through the pack and in fact, made the most amount of progress from his starting position on the entire grid as he picked up and incredible nine places meaning that he would now start 13th on the grid for race two. Once again, the fans favourite made an incredible start and carved his way into the top ten as he eventually ended up in 9th for the majority of the race. From there, he was enthralled in a battle with both multiple race & championship winners as he battled as hard as he physically could with some of the most famous names in modern day touring cars. The ITV cameras picked up plenty of the action and arguably one of the highlights of race two was Taylor-Smith’s incredible slide through Mcleans after a racing nudge from a fellow competitor. Unfortunately this dropped him down to an eventual 11th at the line but once again, the Irishman demonstrated the progress that has been made with the 2022 Cupra as he battled against the manufacturer supported teams. There was still hope as finishing 11th meant that he was still in the mix for the reverse grid draw but to his dismay, 9th was drawn on this occasion meaning that he would start 11th for race three. The final race of the day was once again another ‘fighting Irish’ display from the Juratek driver as he fought from the beginning to the end of the race against the most successful driver in the history of the BTCC, Jason Plato. The two drivers tussled throughout the race where positions were swapped on a number of occasions but most importantly at the line, Taylor-Smith came out on top to finish in an incredible 11th position wrapping up an incredible first race weekend of the year with three very strong points finishes after an unfortunate run in qualifying.
Taylor-Smith commented: “What a day! These three races are why I love the BTCC, it was action packed and exciting from start to finish and I really got to get stuck in. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous coming into the first race weekend of the year but all those nerves are gone after what we achieved today. I got to fight with some of the most successful drivers on grid and came out on top over the course of the three races. All you have to do is look at who we were racing against and the teams that they drive for, it is incredible to see that all of the hard work has paid off over the winter for Team Hard.”
“I felt completely at home once again in the BTCC, not only in the car but also in the team. This is a long year but the ingredients are there for it to be very successful after what I saw today. The car is night & day different to what it was last season and now we can stick it to the best of the best. I am already counting down the days to Brands Hatch as I really want to put on a proper show!"
The BTCC has a three-week gap between now and the next race weekend at Brands Hatch on May 14th & 15th. After a very successful first race weekend of the year, the team can now recoup and further develop the Cupra ahead of their home race. Be sure to keep your eyes on both Árón’s and the Juratek social media pages for regular updates as he prepares for the second race weekend of the season.