Belfast Telegraph

First podium finish for Smiley as rivals struggle

 

By Sammy Hamill

Chris Smiley stepped into the spotlight at Donington Park on a day when Colin Turkington and Daniel Harper ran into trouble.

Smiley secured his first British Touring Car Championship podium place with second in race two, his best finish so far in the series and the best for the Northern Ireland-owned BTC Norlin team.

But the 24-year-old Carrickfergus driver had already shown his increasing confidence with second-fastest time in qualifying and a front row start in race one. He opted to run the compulsory but slower harder ­compound tyre and had to fight hard to bring his Honda Civic home in seventh place as pole man Josh Cook won in his Vauxhall Astra.

But a great start to race two saw Smiley carve his way to the front and into the lead for the first time in his short BTCC career before being overhauled by the Toyota of championship leader Tom Ingram who took his second win of the season with Smiley less than a second behind.

He looked on course for a second podium finish in race three until hit on the side by the Honda of Dan Cammish inflicting damage on both cars.

Turkington, meanwhile, was enduring a frustrating day. He had struggled in Saturday's wet qualifying and started race one from 11th and as he began to make progress his BMW was tapped from behind, sending it spinning back to 17th before ending up 10th.

Then the gremlins set in and he had to start race two from the pitlane before twice more returning to the pits for remedial work on the car and eventually retiring.

His BMW needed the engine replacing for race three but even then there were problems and never made it into the top 20 as Adam Morgan won for Mercedes.

Harper had emphasised his great potential with third place in the first of two Porsche Carrera Cup rounds on Saturday evening but yesterday it all went wrong yesterday.

The 17-year-old Dromara High School student was challenging for the lead early in the race when a stone punctured the radiator of his Carrera.

He gradually fell back into the pack and was then knocked off the track and dropped to the back.

The introduction of a safety car period allowed the field to close up and Harper fought his way into the top 10, ending up seventh.

Belfast Telegraph

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