Tom Chilton continued the steep learning curve of his first season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship this weekend, with the fifth event of the 2012 season. The British racer faced a tough challenge as Team Aon took part in the second of back-to-back race weekends, this time at the Hungaroring just outside Budapest.
Taking to the Hungaroring on Saturday, Tom was again faced with the prospect of a new track and new elements on the Ford Focus, as Team Aon continues its development programme in its debut WTCC season.
As qualifying got underway on Saturday afternoon, both Tom and his team mate James Nash made some, albeit different changes to their set-up. Both drivers were setting times in the mid-field half way through qualifying, but had expected to be higher up the order following promising pace in Slovakia last weekend.
As the first of two qualifying sessions entered the final minutes, Tom was unable to improve on 21st position and therefore missed out on making it through the Q2.
With 21st his final grid slot, Tom said, “Obviously I’m disappointed with qualifying, but I’m still smiling. It’s my first time here at the Hungaroring and I love the circuit and there’s a great atmosphere here with loads of fans, so it’s not all bad! Qualifying was difficult as we’ve never run the new suspension at a track with high kerbs and we’re still having to learn a lot about the set-up. We’ve had no testing to point us in the right direction to develop the new parts. James went in a slightly different direction with his set-up and I’m pleased that worked for him. It’s given us a pointer for next season.”
As Sunday dawned, so too did the racing action. Race one’s rolling start was predictably chaotic, with several cars running wide. Tom managed to make it through the melee relatively unscathed and had made a good start to lie 18th at the end of lap one.
As the race progressed Tom made up a couple of places and crossed the line 15th.
The weather stayed warm and sunny for the standing start ahead of race two. Once again Tom managed to make up places off the line, and was wheel to wheel with team mate James Nash at the first corner, with both doing well to avoid creating any damage to their sister car. At the end of the first lap, Tom was 14th.
A few laps in both Team Aon men were in a tight line of cars in the battle for 13th with Aleksei Dudukalo, Pasquale DiSabatino and Tom Coronel.
By lap five, a fast approaching Coronel passed both drivers, relegating Nash to 14th and Tom 15th. The order remained unchanged until Nash pulled of the track with just a few laps remaining with a sudden lack of power. Following the misfortune for his team mate, Tom crossed the line in 14th place.
Chilton was philosophical about the team’s weekend, commenting, “The weekend was struggle for us; we arrived in Slovakia with a new suspension set-up which was clearly very strong there, but didn’t quite work for us in Hungary. We’ve learnt a huge amount for when we’re here again next year however, and we always knew that there would be challenges like this in our first season. Aside from that, the car still feels great with a very good balance. I made two decent starts as well, and made up places during the rolling and standing starts. I didn’t get any points, but we’ve come away with a lot of knowledge which will help us in the future.”