TEAM HARD. RACING READY FOR HOME EVENT
Team HARD. Racing withstood a mixed weekend at Donington Park during the latest rounds of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, as the squad prepares for its home event this weekend – and the final races of the campaign – at Brands Hatch (23/24 October).
Check out the Kent outfit’s roundups of how each driver got on last time out below…
Árón Taylor-Smith led the line for the team on Saturday, posting competitive times in practice which included sixth in FP2, and bagging the best qualifying position of the quartet of CUPRA drivers despite engine issues.
Sunday’s opener was full of tidy battles and clean overtakes for Taylor-Smith, with the Irishman moving through the pack and nearly into the points before losing two places to take 18th at the flag. Race two followed in a similar fashion, before the 31-year-old settled into the final encounter.
Battling with the likes of double race-winner Gordon Shedden and third-fastest qualifier Jason Plato, Taylor-Smith went on to seal a points finish, with 12th place the reward for a gritty drive.
Now with a car under him that he enjoys, Taylor-Smith is eyeing up a triple-points haul at Brands Hatch.
“Race day was full of progression. I’m always happy when I leave a weekend with the car feeling better than it was when we arrived, and I certainly feel that. I think we were unlucky in qualifying. We didn’t have the engine package optimised which put us on the back foot in races one and two, battling with other people, but we made significant progress with the chassis for race three and were in a position to fight.
“Our relative performance with the frontrunners improved by around 80% from where it was at the start of Sunday. We’ve confirmed the root for how we should start the car, and for that, I’m very happy.
“We’re in a good place on our way to Brands – it’s nice that it’s the home race for Team HARD. I hope to put on a show for the hospitality that will be jam-packed with guests. I’m full of optimism.”
Jack Goff sadly brought the mechanical gremlins from recent rounds with him to Donington Park. Despite a difficult qualifying session, which Goff claimed was the worst of his BTCC career, Sunday’s races proved more fruitful.
While the opening contest saw some movement up the order, thanks to some expert tweaking by his engineers and Swindon Engines, the second and third bouts saw Goff battle with competitors to secure two points-paying finishes. Returning to the form he displayed in the first half of the season, Goff is eyeing even better tussles this weekend.
“We started the weekend off in a really bad place – we couldn’t find the problem with the car that we’ve had for the past few weekends. No matter what we did, it just wouldn’t get fixed, so we knew it was a fundamental issue. [The cause] was then found before race two and the car was transformed. We’re now in the position I feel we should be – able to race around the top ten, with good pace.
“Now I’m positive heading to Brands Hatch. It’s a shame we solved the issue towards the end of the season, but we found it and that’s the most important thing.”
Showing gradual improvements since his arrival to the series midway through the season, Jack Mitchell further added to his experience on the 1.98-mile circuit.
Finishing the second free practice session in fifth, Mitchell then succumbed to the waning engine troubles and found it tough to make any significant progress during qualifying and Sunday’s opener.
Race two welcomed an improved powertrain, and Mitchell crossed the line 19th. Further advancements seemed certain during the early battles of race three, but contact during a heated tussle saw Mitchell drop back before the chequered flag dropped.
The 23-year-old heads to his home track this weekend buoyed by having secured his best finish to date during Round 26, with his sights set firmly on bagging his first BTCC points.
“It wasn’t a bad weekend. After qualifying, I thought my pace was good against my teammates’, however, we lacked the speed we needed in race one, which Swindon thankfully fixed for race two and gave us more firepower. I finished P19, which is my best result in the BTCC so far.
“In race three, I was hoping to improve on that. However, the pack was so tight and it was hard to make some progress through. I got pushed wide and dropped back four places, so the rest of the race was about bringing it home.
“I feel as if I learned a lot racecraft-wise over the weekend and really got stuck in. It’s all a learning curve and I hope to put what I’ve learned into action at Brands and break into the top 15.”
Nic Hamilton’s pace was consistent throughout Saturday’s sessions and gave him a great platform to race from on Sunday. Race one was a quiet and clean affair, with solid lap times aplenty. However, the second race was almost finished as soon as it had started, with Hamilton pitting on the journey to the grid with driveshaft problems. A monumental effort by the team ensured his place in the encounter with seconds to spare and was greeted with cheers from the crowd outside the garage. The final contest was another mistake-free run on a new set-up with one eye towards Brands and a positive end to another inspiring season.
“I approached this Donington Park weekend with confidence as when we tested here in the winter we found mega pace in the CUPRA. The weekend started out well with competitive pace throughout FP1, FP2 and qualifying. However, bad luck followed us into the races; the driveshaft popped out on the way to the grid for race two which put us on the back foot.
“I finished races one and three with similarly positive feelings regarding the progression of the car, the main hurdle being that we were down on power.
“The trials and tribulations are what we love so much about the BTCC! With each meeting, we’re bringing the car closer to where it needs to be and we’re in good stead for the final event at Brands Hatch GP, where I scored my maiden points in the championship. I’m looking forward to a positive finish to the season there.”