The 2022 British Touring Car Championship ventured northerly for the first time this season as the UK’s premier motorsport series visited the iconic Oulton Park. The circuit is nested amongst the trees in the beautiful settings of Tarporley and has always been one of the fans favourite tracks with the racing being action packed from start to finish. Round four of the 2022 championship did not disappoint with Aron Taylor-Smith producing a display of impeccable driving throughout the three races to record a seasons best result of 10th in race three.
The weekend got off to a rocky start for the Irishman after a troublesome qualifying session seeing the team struggled to find the sweet spot in the Cupra when it came to determining the grid order for race one. Oulton Park puts an entirely new set of demands on every chassis due to the undulating and cambered nature of the circuit, this combined with the extra weight associated with the Hybrid System through a spanner amongst the works when it came to the car set up and the progress that has been made to date. However, the engineering & car crew of Taylor-Smith’s Cupra pulled out all the stops on Saturday night to unlock the potential of the car ahead of the three races.
Taylor-Smith commented: “I would be lying if I said that I’m not disappointed after qualifying but I have learned that you can never drop your head in this game as your fortune can change at the drop of a hat, especially with a crew as good as I have on my car. It was the most difficult qualifying session that I have had in a long time but as a team, we have learnt a lot which will only put us in a stronger position for tomorrow’s races. If any team can turn this around it is Team Hard.”
Truer words have never been spoken with the team pulling out all the stops to revamp the car ahead of race one as all eyes were on car #40 when he lined up on the grid with an entirely new set up on his Cupra. The team got to show their true potential as the Irishman carved his way through the pack to gain nine places on a circuit that is renowned for being difficult to overtake at. The tight and twisty nature of the track make it even more difficult to overtake than at other circuits but the chassis developments allowed Taylor-Smith to be one to watch throughout the first race. He crossed the line in an eventual 16th place, narrowly missing out on points but more importantly, proving that the car was now in a place to be ultra competitive throughout the remaining races.
The 40,000 plus trackside spectators were once again treated to another show stopping BTCC race in race two. Taylor-Smith made what is becoming a typical lighting start for him, which saw him immediately jump into the top twelve and on the cuff of the coveted top ten. A rather robust move from another driver pushed Taylor-Smith wide which took away the opportunity for a seasons best result but instead, the Irish ace still managed to bring home his Cupra in an incredible points scoring position of 15th at the finish line. However, further progress was proved, as the Cupra was now capable of producing race lap times comparable to those on the podium for the first time this season. The stage was being set for what was to be Taylor-Smith’s best race of the season to date in race three.
Taylor-Smith commented: “We have made a huge step forward in terms of chassis balance in the first two races and I really believe that we are in our best position to date ahead of race three. This grid is the most competitive touring car championship in the world and you have to be at the very top of your game to be in the top ten but for the first time this season, I feel it’s possible. The car is nearly as quick as it was in qualifying which is unheard of and it is proof of the progress that the engineering & car crew are making. We are in a great place and have momentum on our side ahead of the final race.”
Once again, Taylor-Smith proved to be right with his expectations ahead of the final race as he lined up on the grid in 15th. As in race two, he made another lightening start to immediately jump into the top ten and cross the line in an incredible 9th position at the end of the first lap. The race really kicked off from that point where everyone got to see what the Cupra was capable off at the hands of Taylor-Smith as he went wheel to wheel with multiple championship winner, Jason Plato. The Irishman put on a master class of a performance to fight tooth and nail to retain a coveted top ten finish that would have been the first of the season for the Irish man. Taylor-Smith and Plato locked horns throughout the race with the Irish ace coming out on top, however while battling with each other they slipped down one position in the running order. Fifteen incredible racing laps from Taylor-Smith saw him fight his way to his first top ten finish in the Cupra, much to the teams delight at the finish line.
Taylor-Smith commented: “This is why I love the BTCC. Let's be honest, yesterday was extremely tough but the team worked tirelessly to transform my car into one that was capable of fighting our way into the top ten. I could not be more proud to have our first top ten finish of the season, as it is testament to the hard work that has gone in this weekend. We fought for every inch in race three and it’s great to be able to thank the team for the hard work with a result like this. It has been incredible to see the transformation over the course of the weekend and I feel we have momentum on our side ahead of Croft in two weeks.”
There is another quick turn around with only two weeks until the next instalment of the 2022 championship at Croft, a circuit where Taylor-Smith was ultra competitive last season. The Cupra is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with as the team are unlocking the potential in the chassis, as the effects of the Hybrid System are being understood. The team will be crunching through the data over the next week to ensure the car is in its best shape ahead of the next encounter. Be sure to keep an eye on Aron’s social channels for regular updates ahead of Croft or tune in to ITV4 on Sunday the 26th of June to catch all of the live action.