Defining 2014 as the season to prove himself, Aron Smith tells The Checkered Flag he has ‘never been so prepared‘ entering the coming British Touring Car Championship campaign with his new base at BMR Racing.
The 24-year-old ventures to new surroundings for the coming BTCC season, switching from the Motorbase Ford outfit at which he spent two years with, to Warren Scott‘s BMR Racing squad, where he will race one of a pair of Volkswagen Passat CC NGTC cars alongside former double champion, Alain Menu.
The Dublin ace will head to Brands Hatch on March 29/30 more determined than ever and assures that, with his new deal signed and delivered, it is down to the man himself in what he feels could be one of the classic BTCC seasons.
Speaking of his new partnership with BMR, Smith told TCF: “It has been a frantic off season! The deal with BMR was something that I had been working on well before Christmas. My engineer from 2014, Geoff Kingston, moved across to Warren [Scott]’s operation just after the final round and we’ve obviously kept in contact.
“The plans that Warren had in place were very ambitious but everything has already materialised – Team BMR are going to be the team to beat in 2014.”
The squad plan to begin testing in the near foreseeable future with the official BTCC Media day test looming on 18 March, delays before the BMR machinery greets the race track tactically-induced as Smith says key developments to the Passats are still undergoing.
“To be honest, the cars could have been rolled out early January like some of the other teams but instead they are being completely redeveloped to make us even more competitive. We’ve already booked our first few test days but that’s being kept hush hush for now, although I’ll obviously have some sneaky photos for everyone to see.
“The Passat CC is an RML shell – it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before and is genuinely a piece of art.”
With at least 32 drivers expected to be on the grid for the 2014 season, seven champions adorn the provisional entry list so far as the series enters arguably the most anticipated campaign of recent times.
Among that list of former and recent champions include 1997 and 2000 BTCC title-winner, Menu, one of the mid-90’s stars of the sport that Smith idolised as a youngster watching the series. The Irishman will now enter the nostalgia of facing Menu as a stable mate in the BMR squad for 2014 as the duo pair up for the new season, Smith relishing the challenge of dicing with the Swiss ace.
“Alain was one of those drivers that I grew up idolising; he is well and truly a touring car legend”, Smith added. “I’m under no false of illusions that he will be extremely competitive so I’ll have to really up my game to beat him. It’s a challenge that I’m relishing.
“I think with the combination of my NGTC experience and Alain’s pedigree we should make the ultimate pairing. Partnering up with Warren is also something I’m really looking forward to – he has to be one of the nicest guys on the grid and I can’t wait for the year ahead with him.”
A former Renault UK Clio Cup race winner, Smith ventured onto the big stage when he joined Motorbase for the 2012 BTCC season for his first full championship campaign, following three races with Triple Eight at Knockhill in 2011. 29 races later with Motorbase, he would enter the winner’s folklore as he splashed to victory in the penultimate race at Brands Hatch on a sodden title-deciding weekend at Kent, a tally he he has the best opportunity to add to in 2014.
With the Passat in his hands for the new year, the Irishman is adamant that this is a season to make his mark as a serious and consistent contender for success, and says he has never felt more prepared for a season than as we speak.
“I feel this year is going to go down in history as one of the best ever BTCC seasons, so now it’s even more important than ever to make sure that I’m in the best machinery possible.
“The only goal is to win, there’s no excuses this season. I’m arguably in one of the best cars on the grid with the right engineers and team behind me to challenge from round one to round 30.
“This is the season to launch a championship fight and I’ve never been hungrier to succeed. When I won my first race in the BTCC it was a dream come true, something I’m extremely proud of and I want to add to that tally.
“As soon as the deal was signed everything was put in place; weekly visits to a nutritionists, physio and personal trainers, so it’s safe to say that I’ve never been so prepared going into any season.”
Despite the excitement arriving from his latest surroundings, Smith could not forget his times with Motorbase that helped him into the spotlight two years ago.
Gracious for the squad that that he claimed six podiums and one victory with in two seasons, he said of his time with David Bartrum‘s operation: “It has to be said that I can’t thank everyone at Motorbase enough for making me the touring car driver that I am today. It was a really tough decision to leave them but I felt it was time to further my career.”
…Of course with change comes losses, as Smith recalls: “One issue is that they’ve held Nessie (Aron’s famed lucky mascot) hostage, so we’re currently brokering a deal with chocolate buttons to get her back for Brands!”
The team grew the youngster into one of the modern day household BTCC names to grace the paddock, support from the hearty BTCC fans spurring Smith’s desire to succeed as a new season dawns for both the fans, and himself, to marvel over.
“Without the fans there is no BTCC and that’s a fact. To be fair it’s the fans that give you the confidence to believe in your own ability; it’s a great feeling to know that you’re not just doing it for yourself anymore. I’m out there to put on a show for everyone who supports me and to give them something worthwhile screaming at their TV for!”