Brands Hatch, Kent, UK – Sunday 5th April 2015: Árón Smith got his 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season off to a perfect start with a pair of podium finishes in the opening meeting of the season at Brands Hatch.
Smith laid down a marker to his rivals when he steered his Team BMR Volkswagen Passat CC to second place in qualifying, a position he confidently converted into his tenth and eleventh BTCC career podium finishes on raceday.
Those results mean Smith leaves Kent with third place in the overall championship, just one point shy of the joint leaders, whilst two Independent Trophy victories ensures he leads that category by six points.
For Smith, the key to his success was qualifying, a session he deemed “the most important of the year” as the one and only qualifying to feature all the cars at base weight with no success ballast applied.
After setting competitive lap times in changeable conditions during Saturday’s two free practice sessions, Smith posted a best time of 48.480 seconds around the short Brands Hatch Indy circuit to secure a front-row grid start, missing out on pole by just seven hundredths of a second.
With the fast-starting BMW’s alongside him, Smith settled into third on the opening lap of race one and kept himself pinned to the rear bumpers of the front two. With the leader struggling on the softer compound tyres, Smith sensed an opportunity to gain a position and moved up to second at Paddock Hill Bend on lap fifteen, a position he maintained to the finish with a composed drive.
A new rule for 2015 sees the fastest laps from race one set the grid for the second race, putting Smith sixth on the grid for the second encounter. Maintaining that spot early on, Smith’s challenge at the front was ended after contact from a rival sent him down the field, but he fought back valiantly to twelfth at the finish.
Quickly working his way into the top ten in the early stages of race three, Smith was to capitalise on a characteristically action-packed BTCC encounter to expertly pick his way through the field into podium contention. Setting the Independent class fastest lap en-route, Smith grabbed third place late on for a superb second podium finish of the weekend.
Árón Smith – #40 Team BMR Volkswagen Passat CC:
“It’s the weekend that I’ve always wanted in the BTCC, apart from race two but those races happen. Qualifying was the one where you really wanted to prove yourself, so to have shown to the outside world that I can do it is something I’m really proud of.”
“I’m most happy with my drive in race three. The morale in the camp was slightly down after race two, so to come back and get a podium picked everybody up. To get two podiums and sit one point off the championship lead is a great start to the season and we’re in really good shape with the car and the team for the year ahead.”
The 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship continues with Rounds Four, Five and Six at Donington Park in two weeks’ time on April 18/19.
2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Drivers’ Standings:
1= Matt Neal – 37 points
1= Jack Goff – 37 points
3. Árón Smith – 36 points
4. Andy Priaulx – 34 points
5. Gordon Shedden – 32 points
2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Independents Trophy Standings:
1. Árón Smith – 36 points
2. Colin Turkington – 30 points
3. Adam Morgan – 27 points
4. Tom Ingram – 26 points
5. Rob Austin – 19 points