Chris Smiley joins Colin Turkington and racing elite for British Touring Car Championship
Colin Turkington will have local company on the grid when the British Touring Car Championship kicks off at Brands Hatch this weekend.
Instead of being the lone Ulsterman taking part in Britain's premier racing series, two-time champion Turkington is being joined by Chris Smiley, a 23-year-old former Mini Challenge champion from Carrickfergus.
Smiley will drive a Toyota Avensis for Tony Gilham's Team HARD alongside Jake Hill and Michael Epps among the elite of Britain's saloon car racers.
"I'm so excited about joining the BTCC, it has been a lifelong ambition to be racing in the series. It will be a massive learning curve but I'm more than up for the challenge," he said.
"Tony has been looking to put me in a BTCC seat for about a year now. Since I won two VAG Trophy races for him at Oulton Park we have worked with all our sponsors to get this deal together and it is great to finally know I will be lining up on the grid."
The Irish connection with Team HARD continues in the British GT championship with Dubliner Robert Barrable sharing a Ginetta G5 with 17-year-old Hillsborough driver Wilson Thompson.
Turkington, meanwhile, took part in shakedown runs for the new Subaru Levorg with BMR team-mate Jason Plato at the motor industry's Millbrook proving grounds.
The car appeared at the BTCC media day last week but didn't take to the track and Team BMR are in a race against time to have all four of their Levorgs ready for the weekend.