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Breakthrough podium success delights Smiley



New high: Chris Smiley

New high: Chris Smiley

New high: Chris Smiley

It is not often Colin Turkington is upstaged in the British Touring Car Championship and certainly never before by a fellow Ulster driver.

But it was Chris Smiley who came away smiling from Donington Park after taking his first podium finish for the Northern Ireland-owned BTC Norlin Honda team.

It was a real breakthrough moment for the 26-year-old Carrickfergus driver, just eight rounds into his second season in Britain's premier racing series, his second place behind series leader Tom Ingram elevating him above Turkington in the points standings as they head for Thruxton this weekend.

True, two-time champion Turkington had a nightmare weekend at Donington, his West Surrey Racing BMW plagued with a mechanical issue, resulting in just one top-10 finish in the three races.

But Smiley followed up a strong seventh place in race one with his first podium in race two and even being eliminated in race three couldn't dampen his delight.

"I am over the moon with the Donington result. It is easy to forget that we have had limited running in this car (the Honda Civic Type R) and we are still learning, so to get a result like this is fantastic - the whole team have been working really hard," he enthused.

Now the Championship moves to Thruxton, where Turkington scored a landmark 100th victory for BMW in 2017. And he is confident the gremlins which beset his car at Donington won't hinder him this weekend.

"Anyone that was fortunate enough to see the determination and desire of Team BMW to get my car back out on track at Donington witnessed an extraordinary feat. We weren't rewarded on that occasion but the car has great potential and I'm confident I can show it at Thruxton, which is one of the most demanding tests in the Championship," he said.

Meanwhile, Kris Meeke set the fourth fastest time in the shakedown test ahead of last night's ceremonial start to Rally Portugal, but Citroen team-mate Craig Breen struggled and recorded only the 13th best time.

Belfast Telegraph