Árón Taylor-Smith will return to the British Touring Car Championship following a three-year hiatus in 2021, racing a brand new CUPRA Leon run by Team HARD.
Taylor-Smith will line up alongside Jack Goff and Gylnn Geddie in one of the new cars, as Team HARD looks to make an immediate impact next season.
The Irishman first joined the BTCC grid for the Knockhill round in 2011, returning a year later for his first full season with Motorbase Performance.
A maiden win came at the end of 2012, and Taylor-Smith remained at the Kent team for a second season in 2013.
He joined Team BMR for 2014 in a Volkswagen CC, picking up two victories, and he remained with the team for 2015.
In 2016 Taylor-Smith continued in a Volkswagen at Team BKR, before moving to the Triple Eight-run MG squad for 2017 in what would prove to be a challenging year.
For the past three years the 31-year-old has raced in GTs, initially in the Blancpain Sprint Cup in 2018 before moving to British GT in 2019 in a GT4 Ford Mustang. Taylor-Smith did not race in 2020, but had been set to join the GT4 European Series before COVID-19 disrupted plans.
Taylor-Smith is relishing the chance to return to the BTCC grid and to work with Team HARD Team Principal Tony Gilham.
“I am back and more ready than ever,” said Taylor-Smith. “Watching from the sidelines this year made me realise how much I miss the BTCC. It’s a championship like no other and I was determined to get back on the grid for 2021.
“What I love about Tony is his passion to win. It’s refreshing to be around, and I already know that I will feel right at home.
“The personnel that he has collected to join this project are amongst the best in the game. He’s done an unbelievably good job with the CUPRA.
“I can honestly say that I have never been this excited to go racing, it’s going to be a great year!
“I actually want to thank both Tony and Warren [Scott] for putting this package together for me; it’s a big deal to return to the BTCC and I am really looking forward to getting stuck in at Brands.”
Gilham believes that pairing Taylor-Smith and Goff, who raced together in 2014, will help with the development of the new car.
“I’m delighted to have Árón onboard with us for the 2021 campaign driving the all new CUPRA Leon,” said Gilham.
“He has proven race winning pedigree in the series and has always proved a match for any of his teammates in the past which include multiple champions.
“It was important to acquire a strong driver line up this year to help develop our new car and to have three top line drivers at this stage is a brilliant result for the team.
“Árón will be joining good friend Jack once again after the pair were teammates in 2014. The fact that these guys have worked together before will really accelerate the development of the car and help get our season started on the front foot.
“All drivers including fellow teammate Glynn will take on an extensive testing programme before the season opener to allow us to provide them with the platform to maximise their potential and the capabilities of our new machinery.
“I have full confidence that Árón will quickly get back into the groove of driving of front-wheel drive touring car after spending a few years away in GTs. It’s shaping to be our most positive season to date.”