Team Aon have been busy in the weeks between the Brazilian round of this years World Touring Car Championship and this weekends event in California, with some extensive development on the Global Ford Focus. As the team get to grips with their first season in the worlds premier touring car championship, 2012 has been a steep learning curve for Team Aon drivers Tom Chilton and James Nash. Now with the championships first visit to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the team face a new challenge in Fords backyard.
Weve had a really busy few weeks at Team Aon, but its nice that weve had the big breaks in between races after such a busy start to the season, said Chilton. The great thing is that now weve actually got a test car to work on during the breaks. To have a test car ready in our first year in the championship is so valuable and a testament to the hard work of the team, in what has been a very busy season.
When the British squad took to the track in Monza for its first ever WTCC track, it was following a very limited WTCC test programme with the new Ford Focus. Embracing the challenges that brought, it did nevertheless create some difficult race weekends for the Team Aon drivers. Id be lying if I said we werent struggling at the start of the year. But thats only to be expected when youre new to a championship that everyone else has been in for years, and youve had a very limited test programme. I think weve got over the hard part now though, were in much better shape with every race weekend, added Chilton.
The 2010 BTCC Independents Champion is keen to make the most of the remaining events in the 2012 season. Weve very much using these last races to prepare for the 2013 season. Were trying as many things as possible. Theres restricted testing in WTCC, so were having to do a lot of testing during the race weekends.
Since Brazil weve focused on geometry, suspension, the engine, aerodynamics and brakes. Pretty much every significant part of the car has been looked at again. Its been a lot of work for the team, but its been productive. The testing weve done has been about testing the reliability of the new parts as well as speed and improvement to set-up, and so far weve made some strong steps forward on all counts. To the credit of the boys at Arena, theyve designed, made and run new parts with no problems in a very tight time schedule.
Racing in the US brings with it its own pressures. Taking part in this years WTCC with technical support from Ford, Team Aon is far from a factory team, but still the pressure is there to do well in Fords backyard. The essence of the big US manufacturers, Ford and Chevrolet, and racing for the first time in California, it all adds up to being quite a big deal. Its an important race for all of us in the team and everyone is pushing hard to deliver the best results we can. This season has really been a learning year, and while its been hard to do that in front of a global audience, were proud that weve been putting together this fantastic Ford Focus WTCC car.
As a new addition to the WTCC calendar the Sonoma Raceway will be a new experience for all the teams, putting Team Aon on a level playing field with the rest of the teams for the first time this season. I think it will definitely help us, said Chilton. It will be new for all the teams and drivers. We saw that even in Marrakech, a circuit that WTCC had been to before, because they changed so many areas of the track, speeds and braking points changed and I dont think its any coincidence that we had our best weekend there. It will be interesting to see how quickly everyone adapts to the new challenges of Sonoma.
With the 2.5 mile long Sonoma circuit providing overtaking opportunities, and short straights amongst the undulating features, the California circuit could suit the characteristics of the Focus Mountune built engine. Weve been working a lot on track and weve always had a lot of torque, so power wise our engine should suit Sonoma, said Chilton.
Im hoping that the changes weve made will help see us though to Q2 this weekend. One things for sure. Were going to see some exciting racing on the WTCCs first visit to the US.