It’s been a busy few months for British race squad Team Aon, who are preparing for their first season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. Here, Tom Chilton talks about the team’s preparations and discusses the challenges ahead of the new season……
Q. You've spent several seasons in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), how does it now feel to be preparing for your first season of WTCC?
A. It feels great and I’m really looking forward to it. After spending 10 years racing in the British Touring Car Championship I think I’ve already raced against a lot of the grid in the WTCC! The main challenge I’m expecting this season is racing on new circuits. I’ve not raced at about 80% of them so I have no experience. Even though it’s going to be a steep learning curve, I can’t wait to hit the track.
Q. How has testing gone so far?
A. Testing has gone really well, it’s been hugely productive for everyone in the team. Every time we go out on track we make the car faster – even just by making small changes. To be able to see improvements from very small changes to the car is very promising for a driver.
Q. How are you getting on with James [Nash] as a team mate? What does he bring to the team?
A. We’re getting on really well. Having competed against James in the BTCC we already know each other so we have a good base to work from! It’s great that Team Aon have the two most recent BTCC Independent Driver Champions in the team – I think James and I will really be able to get the most from the Global Ford Focus.
Q. What are your expectations for this season?
A. Ideally I just want to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can. I’d like to be within the top ten for the first round and then in the top six throughout the season. I believe the car is capable of it so it’ll just be a case of bringing everything together as quickly as possible.
Q. Which new circuits are you looking forward to most?
A. Suzuka and Sonoma. Suzuka because I’ve never been to Japan before and the track has such a rich history having hosted Formula One. So many legendary drivers have competed there so I can’t wait to go and race around the track for myself. And Sonoma because I think there will be a great battle there between us and the Chevys on American soil.
Q. What attracted you to the WTCC?
A. The WTCC is the pinnacle of touring cars, it’s an FIA supported championship and is watched by so many fans all over the world. For me it also presents a new challenge in my racing career which I’m not only looking forward to, but feeling more than ready for.
Q. How do you think the new Global Ford Focus will fare against the others marques in the WTCC?
A. The Ford Focus is one of the newest cars which will be lining up on the grid – we all know it’s a proven race winner so there’s no reason it won’t be competitive on the world stage. We don’t have any experience of the tracks so for a lot of the rounds we’ll be spending our time learning which the other teams won’t have to do. But I’m happy with the car and I enjoy driving it so hopefully we’ll have some great battles with the other teams this year.
Q. What would you like to say to any race fans that might miss seeing the team in BTCC?
A. That obviously we’ll miss you too! It’s been great to see so many dedicated fans in the pit lane over the past ten years, especially recently with Team Aon where the support has been absolutely incredible. I hope you’ll follow our progress in the WTCC – obviously without a British round it’s a little bit more difficult – but we’ve loved your support in the past and hope some British fans make it to a WTCC round this season.