British Touring Car Championship 2023 Round 1 at Donington Park

Power Maxed Racing in starring role at BTCC opener

CarStore Power Maxed Racing kicked off the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship in fine fashion, with two independent race victories at Donington Park this weekend [22-23 April].

03/05/23

The Bidford-on-Avon-based outfit were the class of the independent runners across the opening three rounds, with Andrew Watson and Mikey Doble picking up class victories on debut, plus two charging drives into the top ten by experienced contender Aron Taylor-Smith.

It marked a superb return to form for the Vauxhall Astras, as the team looks to build back to winning ways in 2023.

Race 1: Watson becomes an instant hit

If his storming drive into the top-ten qualifying shootout had turned a few heads in Watson’s direction, his follow-up performance during the opening race will have converted a legion of new fans to the Northern Irishman’s cause.

Starting ninth, Watson made light work to gain a couple of spots in the opening exchanges, before sailing down the inside of Adam Morgan at the Craner Curves for sixth.

His charge continued, the next victim Ricky Collard’s Toyota at Redgate, before finally rising to fourth with a firm move on pole-sitter Dan Rowbottom at the last chicane.

Although the 28-year-old caught and gave reigning champion Tom Ingram a hard time for the final spot on the podium, a low-risk opportunity to pass never materialised, and he settled for fourth, and an independent victory on debut.

Mirroring Watson’s example, Taylor-Smith was another man on a mission. The Irishman was out of position after red flags hampered his best lap in qualifying, but he made amends in race trim to rise from the midfield to ninth.

On his first start in the BTCC, Doble dropped back initially, but rallied well, and the reigning Ginetta GT5 and BMW Compact Cup champion made a few passes of his own to take the chequered flag in P20.

Andrew Watson with the Jack Sears Trophy at the British Touring Car Championship 2023

Race 2: Doble’s gamble returns high-stakes reward

It would be Doble who hit the front, however, when changeable weather conditions struck Donington in the lead up to the second race of the day.

The 24-year-old opted to pit for wet weather tyres after the opening few laps, whilst Watson and Taylor-Smith matched the front-runners in staying out on slicks.

The conditions worsened, leaving the slick-shod runners as sitting ducks whilst those on wets tore through the field. Doble duly capitalised, setting up a race to the flag with Nicolas Hamilton for the Independent race win.

Lap after lap, the two ran nose to tail, before a dive to the inside at the final corner won Doble fifth on the road, and the class win, a remarkable feat in only his second start. Watson and Taylor-Smith eventually pitted and re-joined the fray to take P21 and P22 respectively.

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Race 3: Taylor-Smith leads the charge

A topsy-turvy day ended with another swashbuckling drive from Taylor-Smith and Watson, the duo moving through from the back of the grid to add to the team’s points tally and cement the team’s status atop the Independent Teams’ Championship.

Further rain between the races left all cars on wet tyres, and the Astras came alive. Taylor-Smith and Watson steadily climbed the order, gaining 12 and 11 places respectively to finish ninth and twelfth.

The trio had run together for much of the race, but contact ruled Doble out prematurely, and the Caterham-based driver was forced to park up with damage.

A positive start as PMR continues to re-build…

With three rounds in the books, CarStore Power Maxed Racing is five points clear at the top of the Independent Teams’ standings, with Watson, Taylor-Smith and Doble running third, fourth and ninth in the equivalent competition for drivers.

In the Jack Sears Trophy, Watson is the clear leader leaving Donington Park, with Doble fifth despite that setback in race three.

Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit hosts the next event on 6-7 May.

View from the Drivers…

Andrew Watson (#11) said:

“I’m honestly over the moon with how this weekend has gone. We were hoping to be up there in the Jack Sears, so to be amongst the front runners overall is such a fantastic testament to how everybody at CarStore Power Maxed Racing is gelling together.

“It was particularly fun in that last race; I’d say it was my first ‘proper touring car race’, after the weather played a role in the first two. The car felt alive, I think we can have a lot of fun with this Vauxhall Astra this year.

“Huge thanks to the team, and I’m looking forward to getting to Brands Hatch.”

Aron Taylor-Smith (#40) said:

“This has been a really strong start for the whole team. What we have is a really fantastic baseline with this car, and it’s clear the work we’ve put in over the winter is paying off in the performance we’ve had this weekend.

“A huge thanks to the whole team, my sponsors – everybody who is putting into this programme and helping us move up the grid. It was great to have a car underneath me today I could attack with, and really push. I think it’s going to be a very fun season ahead.”

Mikey Doble (#88) said:

“There have been some highs and lows today, but without a doubt, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

“It’s all fantastic experience for me, and to come away with my first points, an independent win and something to really build on is as much as I could have asked for.

“We’re in a positive place across the board as a team, and a huge thanks to them for all their continued support to push us on. I can’t wait to pick it up again at Brands in a fortnight.”

Martin Broadhurst, Team Manager said:

“It’s a very encouraging start to the new season. We were confident we’d made a step forward in performance over the winter, so it’s good to not only see that, but also to understand with even more clarity where we need to build next.

“The atmosphere in the camp is fantastic at the moment. Now we want to sustain that momentum, keep building and arrive at Brands Hatch, another circuit that should suit us, with an equally competitive car.”

Adam Weaver, Team Principal said:

“This weekend has been a just reward for all the effort and commitment put in, by every member of the team over the winter.

“We have always known the Vauxhall Astra still has potential as a car and can compete at the very front in this championship. But these things don’t happen overnight, and this is the first step on a process that still has a way to go.

“But I couldn’t be prouder of what I’m seeing, in the workshop, at the circuit, every day. We have three fantastic drivers and it’s great to see us pushing on as a unit. This is a good start, and now we look to Brands for an equally good next step.”