Team Aon was able to enjoy its best result to date in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill after Tom Chilton brought his Ford Focus ST home in eighth place in the final race in Scotland.
On a weekend where the potential of the new Focus finally began to show, Chilton was able to set a series of encouraging lap times during practice and qualifying, and then run closer to the pace on race day with the still-developing machine.
Benefiting from further development work, Chilton finished just outside the points in eleventh in the opening two races at the challenging Fife circuit.
However, in the final race of the weekend, Chilton was able to battle his way into the points to secure eighth place and the best result for the team to date.
“I know it's only eighth place, but that feels almost as good as a win because it is a mega result after the long struggle to be competitive this year,” Chilto said. “I feel we can compete now and the car is genuinely fantastic to drive. We're a little bit off in a couple of areas, but now I can race and challenge for places and that makes the whole thing much more enjoyable.
“We've beaten cars today that only a couple of weeks ago finished on the podium at Snetterton so that's a huge boost to the team's morale. They have worked tirelessly to get the new parts designed, built and on the car and they deserve a massive amount of credit and a big thank-you from me.”
Team boss Mike Earle was also pleased with the eighth place finish, although he admitted there is work still to be done to get the Focus fully on the pace of its rivals.
“We're closer to where we want to be now,” he said, “and we're much, much closer than we were at the beginning of the season. Every time we run we learn something and that information is analysed and a programme of development based on the information is planned and implemented. It's not rocket science, but you have to know which areas to prioritise given the limited time between the events now and of course, we operate on a limited budget.
“I know I've said it before, but this BTCC Ford Focus did not exist eight months ago, and I think to have gone from a clean sheet of paper to a car that's within a few tenths of the leading established teams who are running cars with several years development in them is a solid achievement. We're still not satisfied though and we won't be until we're at least on a par with those teams, but preferably a bit in front of them.”