Smith Charges Back from early drama at BTCC Finale!
October 16, 2013 by P1 Digital
Árón Smith approached the final weekend of the 2013 MSA British Touring Car Championship aiming to build on his double podium success at Silverstone and end his season on a high. The Dublin racer has proven on a number of occasions this season that when he and the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus NGTC are working well together, they are easily one of the fastest combinations in the series.
Saturday morning’s free practice one was a textbook performance from Smith, setting the fourth fastest time, but crucially he was immensely happy with the setup and balance of his Smiths Hire Centre supported Touring car.
Free practice two was shaping up to be another impressive run until a high speed impact with the barrier at Druids while trying to avoid the abruptly slowing Frank Wrathall left Smith on the sidelines for the remainder of the session.
Árón’s car had taken a substantial impact which later would rule him out of Saturday afternoon’s qualifying as his Airwaves Racing crew set about repairing his car in time for Sunday morning’s race one.
Starting from the back of the grid for race one, Smith’s overnight wishes had come true! A thoroughly soaked Brands Hatch circuit was just what he wanted to quickly make his way up the order. Having proven himself as a rainmaster on more than one occasion since his BTCC debut in 2012, Árón got a superb start and by the end of the opening lap was already up to 16th position having started in 25th. Continuing to work his way up the field, Rob Austin’s departure at Paddock Hill brought out the Safety Car on the third lap allowing Árón to take advantage of the bunched up pack after the restart. As racing got back underway on lap six, Smith resumed his charge. Just past the half way point, he was now running in tenth position and closing down fast on team mate Mat Jackson. Despite a number of challenges to pass, Árón was conscious of not risking a collision with his teammate and brought his Airwaves Racing Ford Focus home in a superb tenth position.
This put him tenth on the grid for race two and Smith was eager to pick up where he left off on his charge up the order. Another fine start in the still wet conditions allowed him to move into the top six during the early stages of the race. Quickly finding a way past Adam Morgan to move into fifth, Smith promptly followed that up by passing new teammate Tom Onslow-Cole out of Paddock Hill bend for fourth position. Despite his best efforts, he was now coming under pressure from Dave Newsham who managed to slip past the Irishman on the eighth lap. Staying with him in an effort to take the place back, Smith was unable to find a way past before passing the chequered flag in fifth position.
Benefitting from the reverse grid draw, Árón started race three from row two of the grid in third position. Yet another superb start off the line allowed him to put former Team Pyro teammate Jack Goff under some serious pressure for second during the opening laps of the race. After some minor paint swapping, Smith tucked his Airwaves Racing Focus in behind Goff who was now challenging championship contender Gordon Shedden for the lead. As the race progressed however, Árón was forced to relinquish third to team-mate Mat Jackson and later fourth to a hard charging Colin Turkington. Crossing the line for the final time this season, he brought his Redcentric supported Ford Focus NGTC home in fifth position, another good result after he was almost forced out of the event from the damage sustained in his free practice two incident.
Speaking on Sunday evening, Árón added, “After the crash on Saturday I honestly didn’t think that we would be racing at all. Everyone in Airwaves Racing chipped in and turned the weekend around for me. Obviously missing qualifying was always going to be difficult, so to still come away from the weekend with three top tens, two of which were in the top five is something I’m really happy about. Now the hard work begins to make sure I’m on the grid once again in 2014!”
Árón Smith is currently one of Ireland’s leading motor racing drivers. The 2011 Dunlop Motorsport Ireland Young Racing Driver of the Year graduated from an extensive karting career to the Renault Clio Cup in the UK in 2007. Having moved to the Italian Clio Cup for one season, Árón returned to the Clio Cup UK and narrowly missed out on taking the title in a season that included his BTCC debut in Knockhill in 2011. For 2012, Árón joined Motorbase Performance for the British Touring Car Championship and by the end of the season made two appearances on the podium including a race victory at the Brands Hatch GP Circuit during the penultimate meeting of the season.