17th August 2023

CarStore Power Maxed Racing marked their 250th start in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship with a return to the podium at Knockhill last weekend [12-13 August].

The annual trip north of the Scottish border to the 1-mile Fife venue carried extra significance for the Bidford-on-Avon team by dint of the anniversary, after nearly a decade fighting in the Championship.

The team’s trio of Andrew Watson, Aron Taylor-Smith and Mikey Doble put in a good effort during practice but missed out on another qualifying top-ten shootout appearance.

However, the very changeable weather conditions that put Taylor-Smith, Watson and Doble in P12, P15 and P22 respectively would also return them to the sharp end of the grid in race trim on Sunday.

After a steady start to the first of three ITV4-televised races, the heavens opened at Knockhill, prompting Watson to pit for wet-weather Goodyear tyres. A lap later, Taylor-Smith and Doble followed him in.

The trio benefited hugely from the gamble, rising steadily through the order as those risking a longer stint on slicks in the hope of clearer skies were eventually forced to concede and head for the pit lane.

Watson benefited most from the strategy call to take the chequered flag in fourth. What started out as a class victory among the Independent runners then became an outright podium, with two cars ahead disqualified for failing post-race ride height checks.

Now promoted to second, the result marked Watson’s first career podium in the BTCC in only his rookie campaign, with Taylor-Smith and Doble similarly benefitting from the exclusion to move up to sixth and ninth respectively, and score a triple points haul for the team on their 250th start.

The team made another visit to the rostrum later in the day. This time Taylor-Smith would be the beneficiary, the Irishman quickly rising from sixth to fourth in the opening exchanges of race two, including a bold move to the inside of Watson at Clark’s.

Watson held on for ninth spot, but arguably the drive of the race went to Doble, the 25-year-old putting in one of his best defensive drives of the season to hold off a host of the championship’s leading lights displaced by the rain-affected opener.

The result meant all that, for the first time this season, all three cars would feature in the reverse grid draw to decide the starting order for the finale. As it was, the trio maintained the status quo, after being drawn in fourth (Taylor-Smith), ninth (Watson) and 12th (Doble).

In typical Knockhill fashion, the heavens opened moments before the start of race three, prompting an urgent tyre change for the entire field on the grid. In a topsy-turvy contest, Doble held position in a tightly-contested pack, eventually taking the flag in 11th.

A problem with the car prompted a pitstop for Taylor-Smith from fourth after the initial laps behind the safety car. It left him rooted to the back of the field, in P27, when the racing resumed.

He made progress up the order, and a series of overtakes promoted him to the final points-paying position in 15th, one position ahead of Watson.

Overall, it rounded out a hugely positive day for the team, with a podium, two Independent class wins, and eight points finish.

The net result of which has promoted Taylor-Smith to fourth in the Independent Drivers’ standings, two and four points ahead of Doble and Watson in fifth and sixth.

In the Teams’ stakes, CarStore Power Maxed Racing have cemented second, the gap to the championship summit now 39 points. Doble’s race three performance kept him out front in the Jack Sears Trophy standings, albeit by a single point from Watson as their inter-team battle rages on.

The series reconvenes at Donington Park in a fortnight [26-27 August], when the BTCC tackles the full Grand Prix layout for the first time in 20 years.

Andrew Watson (#11) said:

“This weekend at Knockhill has been a complete rollercoaster, but obviously the main news is my first podium in the BTCC. It was incredible to get that with a second-place finish, what a day!

“I just want to say a huge thank you to the team at CarStore Power Maxed Racing, especially my car crew for that massive result earlier. We’ve scored a lot of points, and in general, it was a great day in very tough conditions.”

Aron Taylor-Smith (#40) said:

“What a weekend it has been. I’m feeling really pumped, not just because of the results, but also the performance of the CarStore Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra. This is easily the best this car has gone here in many years, and it was an absolute pleasure to drive.

“So, these results are as much for them and my fantastic team of partners, as they are for me. To be back on the podium in the BTCC was a real pleasure – although the champagne tastes a little more watered down than I remember!”

Mikey Doble (#88) said:

“After a difficult Saturday, I am over the moon with the results we have walking away from Knockhill.

“The team and I played a blinder on strategy in race one to take me from P22 to P9. Race two was a personal favourite as we held our own in the top ten for most of the race, battling with some of the biggest names in touring cars.

“Knockhill is an extremely tough track to be a rookie at and to come away still leading the Jack Sears Trophy with three rounds to go is a job well done. I can’t wait to go to Donington GP, a track with fond memories.” © 2024
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