Just six weeks after the team’s debut, Team Aon have already completed a quarter of the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship which has seen drivers Tom Chilton and James Nash claim the team’s first points in the championship. Having already raced around the historic Monza, a twisty Valencia and the tricky Marrakech street circuit, the team continue to progress and look forward to the new challenges presented by the prestigious circuits featured on the remainder of the 2012 calendar.
Taking part in their first WTCC season in 2012, the Arena run squad faced a late entry into the championship with their two 1.6 litre turbo charged Ford Focus cars and British racing drivers Chilton and Nash. The first round of the championship in Monza, Italy was a difficult but overall encouraging showing for the team. Despite heavily laden with ballast the team did qualify within the top 15 in their first showing – an impressive feat considering neither driver nor team had competed there previously and took to the track with a complete lack of previous data.
The second race of the season in Valencia, Spain was less of an unknown quantity for Team Aon, as the team had previously tested there with both drivers at the start of the year. Having shown improving pace throughout the weekend the drivers tried a variety of different set-up configurations; for Nash the result was coming tentatively close to that all important second qualifying session. Despite being unable to manage this, the race result for the team showed further improvements with Nash coming extremely close to scoring points.
The most recent race of the season yielded the team’s best qualifying and race results of the season so far. The Focus had looked resilient over the tough street circuit kerbs throughout testing and practice, with Chilton running in the top six of each session. Come qualifying both drivers pulled off great laps to sail into the second part of qualifying for the first time, eventually setting times which saw them line up seventh and eleventh on the grid. Nash’s eleventh position was elevated to tenth after Gabriele Tarquini’s disqualification which then saw him take the race two pole.
The first race of the weekend saw Chilton secure the first points for the team; the Brit had started the race strongly and was using the kerbs to his advantage finding that the Focus suited the track conditions incredibly well. At the chequered flag Chilton had brought the car home to ensure that Team Aon opened up their points tally.
Unfortunately Nash was not quite as lucky, a fellow competitor t-boning him on the opening lap put paid to his chances and left the Team Aon mechanics with a lot of work to do in order to get the car back out to take the pole position. But their hard work paid off as both Arena run cars made the grid and Nash led from front for the opening few laps. Despite defending hard against the faster cars behind him, who were not carrying race damage, Nash was unable to keep the lead and finished the race in sixth position – taking the teams highest finish in the process. Chilton meanwhile was forced into retirement after a fast food wrapper was sucked into his engine preventing cooling and causing damage.
Reviewing the team’s progress in the championship so far this season Team Principle Mike Earle said, ‘I think we can definitely be pleased with how we’ve done so far this season. We always said that the plan was to pick up top 10 positions and points this year, which is what we’ve achieved in the first part of the season.
‘This weekend in Slovakia is going to be a little bit tricky because we’ll be bringing our revised parts to comply with what was requested of us by the FIA and having never run these before we will effectively testing our new parts over the course of a race weekend.’
The team now look ahead to the fourth round of the championship in Slovakia. This weekend will mark the first time that the WTCC has been to the Slovakiaring and will see both Chilton and Nash take to the 5.922km circuit. Just over 35km from Bratislavia the circuit is one of the longest in Europe and despite being a new challenge for everyone the wide track and large run-off areas should make for interesting running throughout the race weekend.
Looking ahead to the weekend Chilton said, “It’s the first time that the WTCC has ever been held here so none of the other drivers and teams have driven the track before; it levels out the playing field a little. We’d never been to Marrakech before last weekend and I managed to learn that quickly so I’m hoping to carry that momentum into this weekend around this circuit.
The team have worked incredibly hard to build two cars in such a short amount of time and although we’re still learning we’ve made big improvements with our set-up and know where we need to be with the car, which going to a brand new track is always a positive thing.”Click here for the Tom Chilton web site - designed and built by Racecar