CarStore PMR mark landmark weekend with BTCC podium return

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 series’ 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 at the very front in the UK’s premier touring car category.

The team’s trio of Andrew Watson, Aron Taylor-Smith and Mikey Doble were among the fastest runners in practice but were unlucky to miss out on another qualifying top-ten shootout appearance, as a drying track bumped their best efforts down the timing screens.

In an ironic twist, 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.

It was also the team’s first overall podium finish since the Brands Hatch GP finale in 2021, and marked another step on the team’s journey back to winning ways.

The champagne had scarcely dried, before 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 the best defensive drives of the season to-date 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) respectively.

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.

The Vauxhall Astra is a proven quantity in the wet conditions, and the team dug deep in the finale to prove its capabilities once more – although not quite as they had intended.

Doble rose to the occasion in the downpour, and after a handful of laps behind the safety car, he was set loose.

In a topsy-turvy contest, the Surrey-based racer held his own in a tightly-contested pack, eventually taking the flag in 11th. It marked a fitting end to a ‘poinsty’ day for Doble, and a fine recovery after an engine change overnight, and problems even up until moments before the opening race on Sunday.

A problem with one of Taylor-Smith’s headlights forced him to pit from fourth for repairs after the initial laps behind the safety car. It would leave him rooted to the back of the field, in P27, when the racing resumed.

Undeterred, he immediately set about making progress up the order, and a series of bold 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 from a possible nine on a circuit that has rarely favoured the Vauxhall package in recent seasons.

The net result of which has promoted Taylor-Smith to fourth in the Independent Drivers’ standings, two and four points respectively 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 heroics have 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!

“Race three didn’t go our way, we had a problem with the wiper, which made it really hard to see in the spray.

“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.

“The team did a great job – onwards and upwards to Donington Park!”

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.

“Everybody within the team has performed at such a high level, whether that’s in the preparation of the cars, making big strategy calls like we had to in race one, or being quick on their feet in high-pressure moments like the pit stop in race three to get me back out on track.

“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!

“And even in the last race, to come back from P27 to P15, in such dreadful conditions, really highlights to me the potential we have in this car. It’s clear to me that we would have been in the mix up at the front, had our luck run differently.

“Overall, I’m leaving Knockhill feeling so positive about the car, this team, and the direction we’re heading in at the moment. I can’t wait to get to Donington in two weeks’ time and build on this.”

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.

“Race three threw a curve ball at everyone with an almighty down pour just minutes before the race. Once again, we had a strong race and held a strong position to finish P11 concluding a triple points-scoring weekend.

“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 of winning my Ginetta GT5 Challenge title last year.”

Martin Broadhurst, Team Manager said:

“We’ve so much to be positive about as a team after this weekend. It was definitely a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from start to finish.

“The team performed at such a high level in tough conditions, so I’m really proud of the results we’ve come away with.

“We got the big strategy calls right when it mattered, gave the guys three cars they could go and really attack with in all conditions, and everybody’s going home with a smile.

“It’s definitely a just reward for all the hard work everybody continues to put in, and hopefully we can go out and get more of the same at Donington in a fortnight.”

Adam Weaver, Team Principal said:

“We’ve known a day like today was coming for quite some time now, with the momentum the team has built, and with such a productive, positive atmosphere around the awning.

“I suppose it was a fitting result, to mark 250 races in the BTCC with a return to the podium. In 250 races, it was definitely one of the crazier ones we’ve been involved in, but the team did a fantastic job and aced the strategy call on the tyres.

“Knockhill hasn’t always been a friend of ours, so to come away with plenty of points, some silverware for HQ and another box ticked in our journey back to the front end of the grid is as much as we could have asked for.

“A huge thanks as always to the team – in the awning, working hospitality – and to our tremendous partners who support us trackside and from afar. That one was payback for your support!”