Now in his 7th season as a British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) racing driver, Árón Taylor-Smith, has experienced everything from the highs of a debut season victory to the lows of a horrendous crash that left him fighting for his life. He kindly spoke to us about his journey to date and what it takes to be a BTCC driver as well as a personal trainer in Dublin.
Hey Árón, great to speak with you today! Easy one to start - where is home for you?
I consider myself lucky to call Dublin home. I grew up there but moved to the UK shortly after finishing in DIT to pursue motorsport as I had a great opportunity in the BTCC. During my time in England I’ve lived in a few unusual settings from a dining hall of a pub to a mobile home outside the racing teams workshop! I have endless funny stories of things like sleeping fully clothed because it was so cold. But all in all, I would do every single bit of it again!
Wow, sounds pretty intense! Did you study anything specific growing up?
I actually have a Bachelor of Engineering, specialising in Structural from DIT. It is an odd one I will say that but I do believe it helps me in the motorsport world, as I seem to have a very analytical way of thinking. We spend an extortionate amount of time looking at squiggly lines on laptops in our debriefs – sometimes it feels more like an assignment than motorsport!
How long have you been competing in BTCC and how did you get into it?
This will be my seventh season, I feel old saying that! My first season was in 2012 and I actually won a race in my debut year, which is something that I am really proud of. In fact, I believe that I’m the only Irish man to win a race in the championship in 30 years! It was a long road to get to the point that all started with go karting in Ireland at the age of 12. I remember taking to it like a duck to water and after winning the Irish National Championships and progressing through the European series the opportunity came to race cars at the age of 16. I actually didn’t have a road license when I first started in cars! What propelled me into the BTCC was probably winning Motorsport Ireland’s Young Driver of the Year in 2011. This luckily came with financial funding from Sport Ireland that gave me the break to go into the top tier series of the BTCC.
Do you work elsewhere also or are you training full time?
I think I have the best of both worlds when it comes to this question! I am actually a personal trainer in No.17 Personal Training in Dublin 2. It’s really handy for me as I have a great amount of flexibility to focus on my own training whilst also doing something that I love in the meantime.
What does your normal training routine look like?
It really changes based on the time of the year. I’m lucky enough to have a nice little home gym set up and will train twice a day plus a stretching or yoga session in the evening. The first session usually consists of an hour row, run or bike depending on the day / weather with a strength session in the evening. I found this is what works best for me but as I said, it changes depending on the point of the year that I am at. I think I like to suffer so the harder the workout the better for me! My one true rest day is Sunday where I like to do anything outdoors, from going for a swim (duck my head under the water) in the sea to a mountain walk with my dog, Archie.
Talk to me about your motorsport community and what they mean to you?
They mean more to me than you could ever realise. Yes, my name is on the side of the car and I get the glory if we win but motorsport is a huge team effort where I am the final piece of the puzzle. For instance, the mechanics on my team are more my friends than anything else! They feel the highs and lows just as much as the drivers do – if anything there is even more pressure on them to not make a mistake. It is a team and community effort to win at the top level of Motorsport. I think that’s what I like the most about motorsport; it’s a real ‘us versus the world’ mentality when you’re up against the rest of the grid.
What’s your biggest fear?
That’s a hard one! My claim to fame is that I actually died in one particularly bad crash.. I was knocked unconscious, broke a leg, stopped breathing for nearly a minute and had to be resuscitated by the medics. I think in terms of my biggest fear it would have to be letting others down, that’s the only thing that I think about when I am in the racing car – not my own safety. I want to make sure that I do the best that I can for my team, my family and anyone who is there to support me.
Jeeeez, that’s incredible! And you still get in a car! Would you mind sharing a little bit more about what happened?
Yes of course, it actually doesn’t phase me in the slightest but instead haunts my wife, Lauren! This may be a good thing but I still, to this day, can’t remember much from the day other than what others have told me. It was during a qualifying session and another car went off by dropping oil on the track. I was one of the first to come across this and went off at about 230-240 KPH into the barrier. It knocked me unconscious upon impact and I actually stopped breathing. Only recently did I get the chance to speak to the first responder medic team who arrived at the car and they recall it as being one of the worst motorsport crashes that they had ever seen. In fact, they even mentioned that they were convinced that I wasn’t going to survive BUT turns out that I am indestructible!! But all jokes aside, there is no way that I would be here today without the medical staff who did actually save my life. It’s funny, people always ask me if I ever think about what happened when I am in the car nowadays but it literally never crosses my mind. Obviously there is a risk element to motorsport but that’s part of it and it will never stop me giving 110% percent.
Finally, how do you unwind?
By training my doggy, Archie. I have never been able to train dogs before but this little fella is a genius. He is a cross between a Border Collie and German Shepherd who we rescued from the DSPCA. To be honest, he has trained me to teach him a load of tricks – from play dead to walking under my legs. He is my pride & joy and will actually be painted on the back of my helmet for the 2021 season!
Ever since the age of 4 on his first 50cc quad, Árón has been someone going places. And fast at that!! With unwavering support from his community including his hero and wife, Lauren, he has been able to pursue his competitive dreams and achieve accolades such as being the only Irishman to ever win a race in the BTCC in 30 years. We’re excited to follow his journey into the future and beyond!