Picture of Prosperity


Podium delight and double Indy win for Aron Taylor-Smith at Oulton Park thriller

Aron Taylor-Smith scored a first outright podium of the season in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship after another impressive showing last weekend [22-23 June] at a sun-scorched Oulton Park.

The UK’s premier touring car category reconvened at the picturesque, lakeside Cheshire circuit for the final event before the summer break, with Taylor-Smith arriving on the back of a battling drive to three top-ten finishes last time out at Thruxton.

Tackling the high-speed, somewhat unforgiving 2.2-mile Island circuit, the Irishman put in another commendable effort in qualifying, steering his Evans Halshaw Power Maxed Racing-run Vauxhall Astra to eighth on the grid.

Lining up there in front of a capacity crowd, plus millions more live on ITV4, the Dubliner opted to play the long game, strategy-wise, and take the pain of the slower, less-favoured Hard compound tyre for the opening contest, giving him a pace disadvantage to the cars around.

In spite of that, Taylor-Smith used all his racing nous and experience to not only fend off a chasing pack littered with some of the BTCC’s biggest names, but even improved a spot to take the chequered flag in seventh, first among the Independent runners.

His mandatory race on the Hard tyre dispensed with, the 34-year-old switched to the softs, and with it found the extra pace needed to break into the top-five – after surviving a first-corner scare in race two.

A lightning getaway put Taylor-Smith in the frame to make up places on the inside line through the right-hander at Old Hall. There, pinned to the apex, the field closed up in typical touring car fashion, with contact in the pack spinning one of the BMWs around directly ahead.

Quick reflexes meant Taylor-Smith avoided the impact but delayed him. Once released again, however, the #40 Vauxhall Astra made quick progress through the pack, soon catching up to the leading quartet.

Despite applying race-long pressure to the series’ chief title protagonists, a risk-free opportunity to pass never materialised. Taylor-Smith opted to take the points and crossed the line an impressive fifth, plus a second Independents win of the season – and tenth of the season – to add to his earlier triumph.

‘Lady Luck’ opted to pay Taylor-Smith a visit on this occasion, and the coveted reverse grid draw for race three placed him on the front row, alongside team-mate Mikey Doble.

The two Vauxhall Astras made a strong start in the final race before the summer break, fending off Jake Hill’s fast-starting BMW. Taylor-Smith defended valiantly until two-thirds distance, giving Doble an opportunity to build a gap, before Hill finally eased past at the Hairpin.

Still running third, Aron then deployed the same ‘elbows-out’ approach to Hill’s nearest title challenger, Tom Ingram, successfully keeping the Hyundai at bay to score his first overall podium of the season with third.

The net result of three action-packed races at Oulton Park is an improved seventh overall for Taylor-Smith in the Drivers’ standings, and a healthy 13-point lead over Doble in the Independents Trophy.

Their combined efforts have moved Evans Halshaw Power Maxed Racing further ahead in the Independent Teams’ standings, now 55 points clear at the halfway stage in the campaign.

The BTCC returns to action after a one-month hiatus at Croft Circuit on 27-28 July.

Aron Taylor Smith (#40) said:

“I’m so delighted to end the first half of the season with this result. To be back on the podium is great, not just for me, but for the whole team at Evans Halshaw Power Maxed Racing.

“The work that this team puts in to provide me with such a competitive car, as we’ve had at each of the five events so far, is staggering. I’m just the final part in a proper team effort, so it’s great to bring home some silverware for them – and Mikey was so close to the win! He drove brilliantly.

“Overall, I’m feeling really positive heading into the break. We’re an established force back at the front of the championship now, which was always the goal heading into this year. Every time we’re in and around the front runners now, we’re able to take the fight to them on merit, which is a great step forward, building on the foundations of last year.

“To be comfortably out front in the Independents Trophy as well is a great effort. Nothing comes easy in this championship – over a decade in it have taught me that – so it’s another really good sign that we’re moving in the right direction.

“I’m looking forward to a few weeks off to reset, re-focus and then come back for the second half of the season aiming for even greater heights.”

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