Irishman Aron Smith is the newest member of the Redstone Racing squad in the British Touring Car Championship, joining race winner Mat Jackson and second year driver Liam Griffin at the Motorbase Performance run team. After three point scoring drives at Donington Park Aron joins the growing team of race driver bloggers for The Checkered Flag, starting with a catch up on a roller-coaster start to the year, and a look ahead to the next round on the sweeping Thruxton circuit.
So to make up for the lack of blogs from the first two rounds I've decided to do a small bit a of recap on them before focusing on Thruxton!
Going to Brands for the first round was always going to be a nerve wrecking experience…Turning up on the Saturday morning it was hard not to feel like a small fish in a big pond in comparison to some of the well known drivers on the grid. Before the weekend I hadn't really set myself goals because I always find if you fail to meet them you can't help but feel disappointed but realistically I knew I wanted to start in the top 10 and go from there. The two free practise sessions were a huge boost of confidence for me, being able to run comfortably inside the top 10 in 7th was something I was really proud of so had high expectations for qualifying but unfortunately this wasn't to be.. Between the infamous white line on the exit of Graham Hill and silly gauge in the engine giving up it wasn't to be so I had to start in P14.
To be quiet honest the races didn't go to plan whatsoever.. Race 1 started really well and I was up behind my team mate Mat so was more than happy with my pace, this was where it went extremely downhill! Unfortunately contact from another driver put me out of the race, I've never been one to name and shame but I think the footage spoke for itself which was a real shame because it then meant I missed race 2 due to the damage.
Race 3 was a mad race for me, I had to start at the very back and got up to 11th before a brief of track excursion thanks to some oil! That meant I had to return to the pits for the Redstone Racing boys to get to work so we could make the restart. This time I had to start from the back once again so all the hard work had to be done again. I ended up finishing 8th which to be honest I was happy with considering the luck we had up until then!
Next we went to Donington a track that has been kind to me in the past. Once again the weekend started really well with 5th in free practise 1. This was the first time I had been up the very sharp end of the field and to be frank it was a surreal moment to see my name on the timing screens between the biggest names in the business. Qualifying was a real shame for us, the Redstone focus was extremely strong but light rain really hampered my performance and meant I had to start 10th for race 1. It's really easy to forget the quality of driver's in this championship and some of which have been in touring cars longer than I have been racing so to race side by side with them is something that'll never grow old. I've grown up watching these guys on TV and to get one over on them is an incredible feeling!
Race 2 wasn't as good to be honest, contact damaged the car and really took away my chances of moving forward so to finish 9th was still quite a good effort but I was most looking forward to race 3.
We had used our heads during the weekend so had fresh tyres for race 3 so I thought I could really get up the front and hopefully get a good result. Once again this wasn't meant to be as after a couple of laps I found myself being forced on the grass going down the start finish straight of all places! While Dunlop are a great championship sponsor I would recommend they make their billboards on the side of the track a little bit softer.. Going through two of them wrecked the front end of the car which meant I had to return to the pits. The work the Redstone boys do never ceases to amaze me because despite other drivers best efforts we still got out and got a result of 11th.
Looking ahead to Thruxton I'm really excited, it's a track I've always loved and to get to go there with Redstone Racing will be even better. It's a tack that compares to no other and is a place where at the end of every lap you've a smile on your face. Expectation wise I'd hate to hazard a guess but hopefully we can start of near the front end like at Donington and go from there, I think it's the type of track that suites me and the results in the past have always been strong there so fingers crossed I can put on a good show!