Former MINI Challenge champion Chris Smiley will be joining the British Touring Car Championship in 2016.
The Northern Irishman driver will be racing with Team HARD.
Smiley has gained experience in the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup and the VAG Trophy in 2014.
“The BTCC has been a dream of mine for many years, right back to when I was in karting,” he said. “It will be exciting to renew battle with some of my former rivals like Jack Goff and Tom Ingram – just like old days!”
Team HARD are confident they can achieve regular points finishes in 2016, and Smiley is just the driver to get them, according to team principal Tony Gilham.
“We have obviously worked with Chris before and have followed his progress closely throughout,” said Gilham. “Everyone who has come into contact with him knows he is a talent, and we are convinced he is more than ready to make his debut in what we regard as the world’s premier touring car championship.
“He is quick, dedicated and has a burning passion to succeed.”
“The BTCC is ultra-competitive, but with Chris behind the wheel and the raft of updates we have brought to the Avensis in recent months, there is no reason at all why we can’t finish regularly inside the points this year. That has to be our target.”
Smiley knows he’ll be facing an uphill challenge when it comes to learning the Toyota he’ll be piloting this season.
“Whilst the NGTC Toyota cars aren’t a world away from the Minis or the Scirocco – they’re all turbocharged and front-wheel-drive – they are weighted very differently and the suspension behaves differently as they aren’t production cars, so they feel racier,” he explained. “I also have to learn about the tyres, because this will be the first time I’ve raced in a series with two different compounds. That all adds to the challenge, but I can’t wait to get going.”
Feature Image Credit: Caroline Rhea