The long wait to resume TCR UK Touring Car Championship duties is very nearly at an end for Carrickfergus driver Chris Smiley as he heads to Donington Park this week for another double-header.
So far, Smiley’s decision to turn his back on the British Touring Car Championship and move across to the production car-based competition with Honda and new team Restart Racing has been vindicated.
Victorious in the opening race at Oulton Park on Easter Monday, he followed this up with a fifth-place result in the reverse grid race later that same day and will now arrive at Donington second in the standings on a total of 71 points — just three behind current leader Max Hart and nine points clear of third-placed Isaac Smith.
The trade-off for Smiley’s strong start at the wheel of his Honda Civic Type R is a hefty success ballast handicap for qualifying on Saturday, with that continuing into rounds three and four at the Leicestershire venue 24 hours later.
However, the 30-year-old insists he is relishing the challenge and the uncertainty that it will bring.
“I am really looking forward to getting back out again at Donington Park this weekend,” said Smiley, who was presented with the Tom Walker Memorial trophy at Oulton Park for being the highest-placed rookie.
“With our pole position in race one at Oulton Park we will have to carry 40kg of success ballast for the whole of the Donington weekend but the Honda should be strong and it will be interesting to see how the extra weight affects our car and the others around us as they will have gained some weight, too.
“With the deal to compete in this year’s TCR Championship only all coming together a few days before Oulton Park, I was delighted to have been able to make such a strong start to the season,” he added.
“To win race one, that was a perfect way to kick things off and because the top 10 grid positions are reversed for race two, it was important to stay out of trouble, so I was pleased to have finished fifth.”
The half-hour qualifying session to determine grid places for Sunday’s first 25-minute sprint (10.40am) takes place on Saturday from 1.50pm, with Sunday’s second race getting under way at 6.20pm.
The total number of cars lining up to do battle this weekend will increase to 29 as Neil Trotter and Alex Ley enter the fray with Chameleon Motorsport and
Daniel James Motorsport respectively.