Thruxton, Hampshire, UK – Monday 11th May 2015: Coming from being the centre feature of an action packed and thrilling race three at Donington Park, Árón Smith was hoping to return to the top step of the podium at Thruxton, having just missed out on making it a trio of victories for Team BMR at the previous round in the final race of the weekend.
Despite limited running at the Championship’s fastest circuit during the official pre-season test day, Smith and Team BMR were confident that their slippery Volkswagen Passat CC was going to be the car to beat on Sunday. Getting proceedings off to a steady start in Free Practice one, finishing the session in eighth, Árón made his intentions clear for the weekend by setting the fastest time in the second Free Practice session of the morning.
Buoyed by his morning’s progress, Smith set off on his charge for pole position in a qualifying session that would run for over an hour. Two lengthy red flag periods ultimately making the session one of the most challenging of the season so far. The final seven minutes would become a shoot-out for pole position. Over his two final flying laps, Árón recorded a best time of 1.16.785 that was good enough to earn him his first British Touring Car Championship Qualifying pole position.
The ever calm and collected Smith lined up on the top spot for race one on Sunday morning, eager to convert his strong starting position to race victory and boost his championship challenge. Struggling to see the lights on the starting gantry hindered Árón’s getaway as the two Honda’s moved ahead into the first corner. Now hot on the heels of Matt Neal, Smith was keen to make his way back to the front as quickly as possible. However with Adam Morgan now mounting a challenge, Árón was forced to keep one eye in his mirrors to remain ahead of the Mercedes. Unfortunately however, Smith’s dramatic race one was set to take another twist with a puncture followed by one of his best saves to date allowing him to remain in the race. After some quick repairs and a fresh front left tyre in the pits from his Team BMR crew, Smith was able to rejoin the race allowing him to qualify for race two.
Starting his 100th British Touring Car Championship race from sixth on the grid, Árón was keen to recover his weekend and celebrate his achievement with a podium. Smith managed to survive a dramatic first corner incident, promoting him to fourth coming into the Chicane. Now chasing down Honda’s Gordon Shedden for third, the hard charging Matt Neal was also starting to hassle the Irishman’s bid to move up the order. On lap seven, Árón suffered heavy contact from Neal coming into the Chicane that initially looked like Smith would continue unscathed. However as he began to slip down the order, it became all too clear that Árón’s Volkswagen was struggling for grip. Eventually crossing the line in 11th position, the angle of his right rear wheel as he pulled into Parc Ferme after the race was a tell tale sign that the earlier contact resulted in his fall down the order.
Starting just outside the reverse grid window in eleventh, Smith was setting himself up for a now trademark race three recovery drive to the front. Getting his charge off to a good start in the early stages of the race, climbing to ninth past Aiden Moffat and Rob Austin, a mid-race Safety car would offer Smith the chance to conserve his tyres and capitalize on the bunched up field. Shortly after the restart, Árón moved head of Rob Collard’s BMW as he set about finding a way past team mate Jason Plato. However once again he had to contend with the hard charging Matt Neal from behind. The Honda driver slipping past on lap 14 but allowing Smith to move closer to Plato for seventh. Despite getting very close to finding a way past the double champion on the final lap, Smith was forced to settle for eighth at the flag, but crucially securing some all important championship points towards his overall total.
Árón Smith – #40 Team BMR Volkswagen Passat CC:
“Well this was definitely a weekend of highs and lows! I’m absolutely over the moon to have got my first pole position from Qualifying this weekend. That’s been something I’ve really wanted to nail. From there unfortunately I guess things didn’t really go to plan. Once again we had the speed to be on the podium, just not the luck with the puncture in race one and contact in race two. However Oulton Park should be good as I got the team’s first ever victory there last year, and with some improvements we’ve found during our testing in the off season, I really feel we can be right at the sharp end of the field once again.”