The third British Touring Car race within six weeks took place at Andover’s Thruxton circuit, the UK’s fastest circuit with an average speed of over 100 mph which saw Taylor-Smith put on a valiant display as he fought for points on race day.
The second trip to the infamous speed dome of Thruxton saw a new set of conditions for both Taylor-Smith and the Team Hard Cupra’s to battle as they continue to develop to the newest car on the BTCC grid. Aspirations were high after a successful haul of points upon the first visit to Thruxton in May of this year.
Taylor-Smith commented: “I have always gone well around Thruxton and in fact, scored my first ever BTCC pole position at this track. It’s one that really challenges the car, as we have to use a harder compound tyre to combat the track’s abrasiveness. This brings a whole host of new challenges for the engineers but we have a good crew around us to continue developing this car.”
Conditions had shifted more towards a hotter climate than the team experienced in May which produced a new engineering challenge for the crew. The two free practise sessions were used to stabilise both tyre pressures and chamber, two factors that really come into play at Thruxton due to the potential of punctures. The team battled both the circuit and tyre to begin making inroads into what was needed ahead of qualifying.
Taylor-Smith commented: “We left here in May with a fairly decent balance but the hotter temperatures of the recent heat waves are throwing this work out of the window. We’re now having to explore new avenues to try and extract more ‘one lap’ pace from the car but as it stands, I am confident of the car in race trim and now all hands are on deck to maximise the Cupra in qualifying.”
The team of engineers faced their biggest challenge to date of the 2022 season as the quartet of Cupra’s entered qualifying. All drivers maximised their efforts to within 0.1 of a second but unfortunately, this still saw Taylor-Smith outside of the top twenty, despite finding a further 0.8 of a second from free practise two to qualifying. It was a challenging session for all Team Hard cars as they struggled to find the sweet spot of the chassis.
Taylor-Smith commented: “That was a really tough session as I felt as though I put together a brilliant lap but unfortunately it still wasn’t quick enough. The chassis improved by nearly a second from free practise to qualifying which is a feat to the teamwork but we still need to push the development to get ourselves further up the grid. Yes, it’s not where we want to be but the team are working insanely hard behind the scenes to improve the car. Tomorrow is a new day of three races and I am confident that we can bounce back. There is plenty of homework to be done tonight but I know that there is more to come from this car.”
The team worked into the early hours of Sunday morning to overhaul Taylor-Smith’s Cupra and left no stone unturned. The engineering crew identified a number of areas that could be further improved which lead to an enormous effort from the entire team as they effectively stripped & rebuilt all of the major components of the car on site ahead of race day. Race one was just what the team needed to see in order to repay their efforts as Taylor-Smith was one of highest charging drivers on the grid as he carved his way through the pack, at one point being on the cuff of the points after making up ten places. The battles continued throughout the race which eventually saw the Irishman cross the line in an incredible 19th after his toughest qualifying of the season and more importantly, inside the top ten of the independents championships.
Taylor-Smith commented: “It has to be said that the team have done an incredible job and overhauled the chassis. Yesterday was very tough but the team worked insanely well to unlock more from the chassis. It’s hard to move forward at all in this championship so to have jumped nearly ten places in race one is exactly what I needed. It’s a very strong start to our day and it’s all down to how the team have improved the car.”
The fans favourite made an electric start in race two and immediately jumped forward to 16th by the end of lap one as he battled his way towards the outright championship points. He was locked in a battle with former race winners as he fought tooth and nail to get the absolute maximum out of the Cupra before a puncture put head to his point’s aspirations. Taylor-Smith was forced to put due to the puncture that effectively ended his charge towards the top ten.
Taylor-Smith commented: “It’s such a hard pill to swallow when you get an unexpected puncture, especially with the progressing we were making through the field and also the work that team have done. I am certain that were in a strong position to score points as I was actually managing the tyres to push for a late charge when out of nowhere there was a big pop that nearly sent me off. I’m obviously disappointed but more so for the team as they were making great progress with the chassis.”
Race three saw as an ever-determined Taylor-Smith considering the woes of race two. Championship points was always going to be difficult after starting on the last row but as ever, the Irishman battled as hard as possible to finish in a very impressive 18th but even more impressively, a brilliant 4th position in the independent points standings.
Taylor-Smith commented: “The puncture in race two really meant that a points scoring position was borderline out of the question but to cross the line in 4th in the independent standings is a great reward for the hard work that has gone in this weekend. Yes, the Cupra wasn’t where it needed to be in qualifying trim but the team have done a superb job over night to produce a car capable of moving through this grid.
The focus is now starting to switch to focus on the independents championship with only six races left this season. Taylor-Smith currently sits in a very strong 7th position. The BTCC will return to our screens on ITV4 on September 25th for another three action packed races at the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone. Be sure to keep your eyes on Aron’s social media channels for constant updates on the run up to the next race.