Tom Onslow-Cole : From Aon To Milltek & Back Again…

As many of you may now know, I am doing bits and bobs for the rather impressing racing site, Race Drivers Inc these days… through the power of persuasion and good journalism, they managed to hook me up with the rather delicious Tom Onslow-Cole… here is what happened.

As part of Aon’s ‘Team Handsome’, Tom Onslow-Cole has had one of the most interesting 2011 seasons of all the British Touring Car Championship drivers. Moving from Team Aon’s Fords to AmD Milltek Racing and back again, it’s been a season of change for Tom, and with all signs pointing to WTCC for AON for 2012, could we be in for more up’s and downs? We caught up with him to find out.

Tom spent the first part of the 2011 BTCC season driving a NGTC-powered, Super 2000-specification Volkswagen Golf in the British Touring Car Championship with AmD Milltek Racing, before it was announced live during the Oulton Park round on 5 June that Tom would be returning to Team Aon alongside team-mates Tom Chilton and Andy Neate.

Speaking of the rather dramatic 2011 season, Tom told Race Drivers Inc,: “It has been a difficult season in a different way. This is not the first time I have had to do a lot of development on a car, but obviously coming from the Golf and into the Aon Focus was quite tough because I was behind with the changes in the Aon car; all the new ideas and concepts that had been implemented whilst I was away meant I had to catch up and get my head around what had been done. That was quite tough but it all started to come together towards the end.”

Whilst the chopping and changing was bound to have a knock-on effect on his championship efforts, Tom did have his eye on topping the tables in 2010, only to lose his points lead rather confusingly towards the end of the season. Whilst Onslow-Cole scored stronger results than team-mate Tom Chilton early in the season, he moved over when leading to allow Chilton to take the victories.

Finally opening up on the subject, Tom said; “At the end of the day, I had a drive and I was part of the team. It worked out well for the team in terms of the overall championship. Of course it was frustrating to lose the main championship, but it is very easy to look back and think you could have done things differently, but essentially I think the team were just trying to hedge their bets.

“If I hadn’t have had that drive at all, I might not have been here this year. They did a fantastic thing for me, at 23 years old I was a part of the BTCC championship fight and they gave me a platform to build on.”

However, with rumours rife that that Tom Chilton and Team Aon will be moving up to the World Touring Car series, it is unkonown how long that platform to success will be available to him. Despite the 2012 season being only a few months away, Tom– like many other drivers – still has no idea what car, team or  championship, he’ll be driving in come 2012.

Things aren’t looking too rosy for Tom on the world stage however, which is good, as it sounds as though he’s keen to remain in the UK leg of Touring cards, telling us; “Arena motorsport’s entry into World Touring Cars looks like it’s going ahead, so there might be a possibility to make things work there, but at the moment it’s not happening for me. The circumstances have to be very good to go to WTCC because the way it often works is that you have to bring personal sponsorship to a team just to make the deal happen. My personal sponsorship is UK based, so they wouldn’t be interested in a world championship. Although, if there was something like a paid drive which was on offer, then obviously I’d love to do it.”

In an ideal world, if offered a fully paid for drive in either the British or World touring cars, Tom would stick with good old Blighty. What he didn’t rule out however, was jetting off to Australia for a stint in the V8 series, which is ultimately where he’d like to end up.

Always one to dig a little deeper, I then grilled Tom on which existing BTCC team he would love to join given the chance. As expected he initially told me that he had formed a really good relationship with Team Aon and had become particularly close the entire team there (so much so that he was looking forward to the forthcoming Christmas party) and he would love to go back there if they returned in 2012. Tom said; “There is still a lot of potential to come from the car, even if they were to run it in its current form.”

Should Aon not return and Tom was to be offer a fully paid for drive within any team, he – like many other competitors – would love to be a part of 2011 championship winners Honda’s squad. “At the moment no one has announced or confirmed what they are doing, but the biggest opportunity would lie with Honda as the first big team to adopt Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC). Considering that’s full up, it’s time to wait and see what other teams put together what packages.”

“However, it’s not as easy as it sounds, because at this time of the year, we as drivers try to find or bring in sponsors, but until we actually know which team we are driving for, it’s very hard to approach a sponsor.  At the same time, the teams can’t confirm what they’re doing until they know what budget they have got, and part of that might come from the driver.

“Essentially, the teams are waiting to see what they get in before they make any decisions, and then drivers wait for the teams before they make any decisions so it is a case of waiting it out for a little while.”

With that said, I convinced Tom to let us be the first to know when he secures his drive for 2012, wherever that may be. Until then however, like many drivers, work doesn’t stop with the end of the season, as he’s been busy working for the FIA with the Young Driver Academy as well as bits for the MSA as well as doing driver coaching. So, if you want to learn to drive with Onslow-Cole, be sure to drop him a line.

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