Aron Smith continues Silverstone podium run
With its leading duo of Jason Plato and Colin Turkington gunning for the championship you’d be forgiven for missing the development of Team BMR RCIB Insurance’s ‘other’ race-winning driver, but the man himself kept his impressive Silverstone run going last weekend. Aron Smith has visited the podium at the Northamptonshire circuit at least once each year since his 2012 debut campaign and he duly delivered again last time out.
Saturday morning’s free practice sessions proved that the weekend’s action was going to be very close. Just eight tenths of a second separated the top 20 drivers in free practice one, and that number increased to 23 in free practice two. Trying a number of different styles of attack during both sessions to be prepared for the weekend’s events, Smith ended up tenth and sixth respectively, but crucially feeling confident he could find that extra drop needed to propel him up the order in qualifying.
The penultimate qualifying session of the season got underway just after 3pm and it was action packed from the start. Split with a red flag half way through, the majority of the flying laps were completed in the second part of the session. Hooking up with team-mate Plato, the pair set off on a charge towards the front which on early sectors looked set to be the perfect plan. Unfortunately however, their flying lap was compromised by another competitor in the final sector, but Árón’s best effort was good enough to place him eighth on the grid for Sunday’s opener.
Starting on the Dunlop SportMaxx soft tyres, Smith got a superb launch as the lights went out on Sunday’s opening race one, propelling himself up to seventh at the end of the first lap. Now locked on the bumper of fellow BMR driver Colin Turkington, Smith looked to be the fastest of the pair, but instead they worked together to try and move forward up the order. Utilising the tow from Turkington and the best of his soft tyres, Smith knocked in some flying laps early on which would go on to secure a fourth place starting position for race two. As the race progressed however, the pair were unable to move forward, but contact between Dave Newsham and Sam Tordoff up ahead promoted the Team BMR pair to fifth and sixth respectively which they would maintain to the flag.
Keen to grab the opportunity of his best race two starting position of the season, once again Smith set off on an early charge as the lights went out. Now managing a credit card sized gap to third placed Jack Goff, Smith, who was clearly the quickest of the pair tried several moves to pass the MG driver before he became locked in battle with Andy Priaulx’s BMW. Opting to let the battle unfold ahead and avoid any drama, Priaulx eventually broke free to lead with the ailing Mat Jackson starting to slip back. Quickly Smith was now promoted to third and back in battle with Goff for second. Despite closing the gap back down to under a second, Smith remained third to add another Silverstone podium to his trophy cabinet, and with it, finish as leading independent team driver.
Ten was the magic number drawn for the race three reverse grid order, placing Smith down in eighth. With the field bunching up through turn one, Árón’s VW was subjected to contact which resulted in damaged steering. Falling back down the order, Smith initially started to recover after an early safety car period. His efforts were in vain however, as a puncture inside the final part of the race sent the Team BMR driver to the pits and into retirement.
“Overall this has been another good weekend,” he said. “I really like Silverstone, it’s been very kind to me with at least one podium finish each year I’ve raced here in Touring Cars, so I’m really happy we could keep that going. Race three was obviously a bit of a shame, but I guess that’s how it goes, we still have a lot to be happy about this weekend and the team is on the brink of winning the Teams’ championship which is very important to me. Like Silverstone, Brands Hatch GP is a special circuit for me, I got my first win there in 2012 so I’ll be giving it everything she’s got to repeat that!”