Despite a roll in qualifying at Brands Hatch GP circuit, Aron Smith said his switch to Team BKR made 2016 his most enjoyable Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season to date.
The Irishman only added results of 20th and 14th to his name in the season finale in Kent, but was left smiling after closing the curtain on a competitive maiden BTCC assault for Nico Ferrari‘s BKR outfit.
Alongside three podiums and 11 finishes inside the top 10, the Volkswagen CC driver was also one of 12 race winners in 2016 thanks to his defensive performance at Rockingham.
Smith hinted that the machinery under him is still an unknown for 2017, but that the switch to BKR from Team BMR made the 2016 season one of his personal favourites.
“I’ve had the most enjoyable year to date in touring cars”, he told The Checkered Flag. “It’s been so much fun thanks to these guys.
“They’ve made the experience incredible for me and to get a win and a podium was pretty special.”
The final weekend of the season was not one of the highlights for Smith however, a puncture effectively wrecking his chances to improve on an ultimate 15th place in the Drivers’ Championship.
On a frenetic final weekend, Smith added: “We could have had a good day, but punctures and crap just got in our way which was unfortunate, because we made two good runs up through the field.”
The most dramatic image of the weekend for the Irishman was ending qualifying by climbing out of the Volkswagen CC, which had perched on its side after a slow-speed roll following an off at Hawthorns.
Speaking of the incident itself, Smith said: “It was the most pathetic crash I’ve ever had in my whole life.
“Just made the smallest of mistakes and it bit me. I locked the fronts, went into the gravel and I thought I had it. I didn’t, it dug in and went over but didn’t really hurt – just gave me a bit of a headache.
“It was a headache too for the guys to put it back together. They did a good job and a lot of work, stripping everything to see if there was any other problems.”
At the end of a fifth full season in BTCC, Smith said that he felt a sense of pride in 2016 after battling to victory at Rockingham against the established works outfits.
“We’ve all become really good mates. It’s nice that we’re just a group of friends that come out to take on these big manufacturers and be able to beat them.”