News 2013: Aron Smith mid-season interview
Now in his second full season in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, 23 year-old former Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of the year Aron Smith has joined the ranks of the next generation touring car graduates to compete this season in the #8 Airwaves Racing Ford Focus ST.
Named 'most promising newcomer' by BTCC commentator and legend Tim Harvey in The Sun last year; the first half of the 2013 season has thrown the young Irishman a new set of challenges to contend with. We catch up with him at the midway point to hear his thoughts on how 2013 has been shaping up so far...
AR: Once the BTCC season closes in October, we don't really see or hear much from the drivers again until the New Year....what exactly do you all get up to? Is it true there's a mass hibernation pact?! Can you give us an insight into what goes on out of season?
AS: "It's a funny time of year when the season wraps up; everyone thinks we all just sit around – but actually work for the following season usually starts before the season has even ended!
"Although the months of November and December are generally the only months of the year where I take a bit of breather from training, the odd takeaway is had and I generally live a bit more of a normal life. By the time December comes around meetings are already taking place about the coming season and it's the time of year when my phone battery dies before lunch time thanks to the infinite amount of phone calls and emails. The Christmas break is always a tiny bit of an anxious time as in most cases you haven't fully signed off on the coming seasons racing so to say I'm on tender hooks would be an understatement. But, once New Year passes by I generally spend the majority of my free time back in the gym to make sure I'm 100% ready for the start of testing. Then probably the best time of the season rolls around, the time when your drive is eventually signed off which is normally marked with a celebratory dinner with Lauren before the press releases go out!"
AR: The last half of your debut season in 2012 gained momentum in the S2000 Focus; ending with your maiden win and many people seemed to expect you to start this season with wins and podiums in the new NGTC...would you say that this was a realistic expectation given the move into a completely new car?
AS: "Last year was proof that the first half of the season is overrated so we've been gearing up for the second half all along! I guess those expectations would have been somewhat realistic but I think a lot of people overlooked the fact that our car is still developing in comparison to the other teams. It has been a learning process but I can guarantee that everything we've gone through to date will have us in better shaped for the remainder of the season. One key point about the second half of the season is the fact that we are now returning to all the circuits which Mat [Jackson] raced the NGTC at last season so now we have a backlog of data which will inevitably help us."
AR: How different is the NGTC Focus to drive compared to the S2000, what has surprised you the most about it and what's the biggest change (if any) you've had to make to adapt to the new car?
AS: "In fairness it's an entirely different car but one thing that has worked in my favour is the fact that I only had one season in the S2000 - which in a weird way meant that I wasn't set in my ways when it comes to what a touring car should feel like.
"I've heard of other teams and drivers complaining about components in their own cars which to be honest I haven't noticed - mainly because it's all somewhat new to me so I just get on with what I have been given. The biggest difference that an NGTC offers is the level of grip; the car is slightly heavier and runs on bigger tyres which all equate to the car being able to provide more grip. When the car works it feels like it has the potential to pull your face off around a corner with the amount of grip you have. Another big positive is how to doesn't destroy tyres like an S2000 which makes for much better racing as everyone is on the limit from lap one until the very end - unlike the pinnacle of Motorsport that is F1."
AR: We're in the middle of the summer hiatus now, what have you been up to during the break and how have you been preparing for the second half of the season?
AS: "This isn't your typical playboy racing driver answer where you would expect me to be stumbling around on some boat party in Spain but instead I use the gap to focus on my fitness. The way I look at it is that my level of fitness is one of the few variables that I can control when it comes to the racing so I always want to make sure that I am as fit as I can possibly be and the mid-season gap allows me to achieve this. When there's only a two week turn around between races there isn't a whole lot you can do apart from make sure you maintain your level of fitness, you need this kind of break to bring it to the next level which is what I've really focused on. Think about it, if it comes down to the last few laps of race 3 in 30+ degrees at the end of a long weekend I want to be fully confident that I'll come out on top no matter who I'm against so yes, that's what keeps me going!"
AS: "I was in a similar situation last season and we came out of the second half of the season as the second highest points scorer in the championship.
"Generally my goal is to out do what I achieved in the past which in this case is a pretty big goal - but with the position we are now in with our car I genuinely think that we can achieve this. We've gotten a chance to do a two day test in this gap which has massively helped our understanding of the car and as the lap times pointed out we have made some great strides with our pace so I'm quietly confident heading into the second half of the season."
Aron is back in action with Airwaves Racing when the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns from its summer break at Norfolk's Snetterton 300 circuit on August 3/4.