The 2022 British Touring Car Championship concluded at the infamous Grand Prix circuit of Brands Hatch on October 9th. The season finale is always a fan favourite, not just because of the iconic circuit layout but also is to the electric atmosphere that is in the air as the season draws to a close. Taylor-Smith was fresh off the back of his most successful weekend to date at Silverstone and expectations were high ahead of the team’s home circuit race.
Taylor-Smith commented: “Silverstone was a great weekend for us, we fought back into the coveted top ten and have gotten the Cupra into a place where it’s really working for me. I have to say that I absolutely love the GP layout at Brands Hatch and it’s always been very kind to me, in fact I actually won my first ever BTCC at this track! Hopefully we can close out the season on a high.”
Taylor-Smith was right to feel confident heading into the weekend as he has a very strong record at Brands Hatch after notching up his first ever BTCC win at the season finale in 2012 ahead of scoring multiple podiums at the circuit over the years. The weekend began in strong fashion with Taylor-Smith’s Cupra sitting comfortably around the top ten in both free practise sessions. But the first bit of bad luck was lingering around the corner after his first run in qualifying. He set a blistering lap to sit in twelfth on the opening run in qualifying which indicated that a top ten qualifying position was on the cards. The track evolves throughout the session as more rubber gets laid down and the track begins to generate more grip and with this in mind, expectations soared as Taylor-Smith left the pits for his final run in qualifying. However, an engine issue was noted on the out lap which prevented any further progress from Taylor-Smith and this saw him slip down the order as the track evolved.
Taylor-Smith commented: “That was a qualifying of ‘what could have been.’ The chassis felt great but an engine issue halted our progress on the second run. I know we could have qualified within the top ten but it wasn’t to be on this occasion. Unfortunately the crew have a long night ahead due to changing the engine but we will be strong tomorrow.”
Taylor-Smith is renowned for fighting through the pack on race day and the GP track lends a helping hand as it really plays to his strengths. The Irishman got one of his typical lightening starts and over the course of the first lap had already navigated himself into a points scoring position while overtaking six cars. The next turn of bad luck hit at this point as another driver made an error, which resulted in breaking the rear toe link on the Cupra that sent Taylor-Smith off the track.
Taylor-Smith commented: “Ah you can’t write it! I was really happy with my start and the progress that we had made throughout the first lap as already we were in a points scoring position. I don’t think one of the other drivers knew that I was on the inside and he tried to turn into the corner that sent me straight off at well over 100mph! It was one of those moments where you close your eyes and hope everything pans out and to be honest, we were very lucky to escape with minor damage.”
Race two and three were unfortunately more tails of woes for Taylor-Smith as the damaged sustained in race one continued to haunt the team. It would always be difficult lining up at the back of the grid due to a DNF in race one but this didn’t remotely phase Taylor-Smith. He was still adamant on closing out the season with a strong showing and scoring even more points. Race two was another superb outing for Taylor-Smith as he battled his way through the back after overtaking over ten cars but then a puncture struck the Irishman with four laps to go. It was to be a very similar story in race three as once again, Taylor-Smith put on a master class in overtaking before another puncture was to strike and force him to pit. Both fantastic surges were put to a stop after punctures that were later determined to be a result of damage sustained in race one.
Taylor-Smith commented: “Unfortunately we were on the back foot after the engine issue in qualifying and never recovered from this. The contact in race one put us out of the race and haunted us in race two & three with punctures. Yes it’s disappointing but I gave it everything that I had and sometimes luck just isn’t on your side.”
The season didn’t concluded in the manor that Taylor-Smith deserved but it is no reflection on what was achieved over the course of the year, especially off the back of an incredible weekend at Silverstone. The Irishman fought tooth & nail to develop the Cupra into a top ten contender over the course of the 2022 season and at times was one of the quickest cars on track, proving just how much progress had been made and how Taylor-Smith is one to watch ahead of next season. The winter months are just what are needed to reset and develop away from the track, the confines of the race season make it difficult for the team to carry out the in-depth developments but now with time on their side the work ca be done away from race weekends.
Taylor-Smith commented: “My focus is already on 2023. We showed what we can do when the car is in the window this season and I have no doubt that we can return to the podium with the plans that are coming together for winter development. This championship is the pinnacle of British motorsport, if not touring car racing around the world, and I am truly excited to see what I can achieve in 2023.”
Taylor-Smith will return to the BTCC for the 2023, be sure to keep an eye on his social media channels over the coming few weeks to get a behind the scenes glimpse of the work that goes on during winter testing. Sponsored by HBC Logistics Ltd.