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Árón Smith: ‘I’m really proud’

Árón Smith was ‘proud’ to have secured a first pole position in the British Touring Car Championship, as he dragged his Team BMR Volkswagen CC to the fastest time in qualifying at Thruxton.

The Irishman grabbed pole in a frantic qualifying session despite the disruption of two red flags, with a late effort of 1:16.785s propelling him to the top of the times ahead of the Honda duo of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal.

Smith had made his intentions clear earlier in the day with a fastest time in second practice, and having secured the first pole of his BTCC career, was delighted with his performance at the Hampshire circuit – the fastest in the UK.

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“I was quietly optimistic going into it [the session,” he admitted to TouringCars.Net. “I got out of the car and said ‘I needed to do that’, I needed to go out and be quickest in a session for myself to show everyone that I can do it.

“I knew the car would be quick and I knew we could do a mid-to-high 1’16 – whether that was good enough for pole I wasn’t sure, but luckily enough it was, it’s always close at the top no matter where we go but we have the edge here.

“To do it at one of the hardest tracks is something that I’m really proud of because it’s not easy around here. It’s really good for my confidence and good for BMR.”

The 25 year-old was also satisfied with the result given his performance relative to his team-mates, with Jason Plato – who assisted Smith with a tow on his pole position lap – the next best-placed BMR driver in sixth.

“We did it at Brands and it’s just nice to back it up – I just wanted to do it for myself really,” he said. “Jason did play the team game and he helped me out there which was good and we got the result for the team which is important so I think we’ve got a strong fighting chance tomorrow.”

Smith admitted that he had pushed his car to the limit during the session, but felt that his machine had the pace to beat the Hondas – who will carry considerable ballast in tomorrow’s opening race – on outright pace in tomorrow’s races.

“I gave it socks, you can say that much. I would have said the Honda is a very strong car around here but the Volkswagen is even better again.

“Straight from free practice one we did all of our race runs, I knew the balance was right where I wanted it to be so now I know exactly what to change going into race one.

“I think that [the ballast advantage] will save the tyres a little bit which is key so the second half of the race is when I’ll really stretch my legs and come into my own.

“I just want to work with whoever is around me in the opening stages – whether it’s Matt or Gordon or whoever – and just drive away from the pack, leave it until the last few laps and we’ll fight it out. I want to get a clear gap and be gone up the road.”

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