| 6.4°C Belfast

Smiley aims to be touring car success with Hyundai

 

Close

Fast mover: Chris Smiley will be part of Hyundai’s BTCC debut

Fast mover: Chris Smiley will be part of Hyundai’s BTCC debut

Fast mover: Chris Smiley will be part of Hyundai’s BTCC debut

Chris Smiley is heading back to the British Touring Car Championship but with a new team and the newest car to join the 2020 grid.

The 27-year-old race-winning driver from Carrickfergus has signed with Suffolk-based EXCELR8 Motorsport, who are introducing Hyundai to the Championship. He will drive an i30 N Fastback alongside another newcomer to the team, Senna Proctor.

Smiley has driven for BTC Racing for the past three years, winning for the first time at Rockingham in 2018, and last season he continued to show his potential with three podium finishes and a first pole position at Snetterton driving the BTC team's Honda Civic Type R.

But now he switches to Hyundai as the Korean manufacturer dips its toes in British racing at a time when they are enjoying huge success on the world rally stage.

"I'm excited to be joining EXCELR8 Motorsport for the new season," said the former Mini Challenge champion who made his BTCC debut back in 2016 for TLC Racing in a Toyota Avensis. "It is going to be a good challenge to work with the team and bring Hyundai into the BTCC as a new manufacturer.

"I know the team at EXCELR8 have made an incredible effort with the new car over the winter months and have strengthened their engineering capabilities and brought in some very talented people to work on the project.

"Developing a new car is always a great challenge, and to do it with a brand that has a tremendous passion for motorsport like Hyundai means this is a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved to create something really special.

"The BTCC is an ultra-competitive Championship and being a race winner in the series, I know that I can mix it at the sharp end of the series. I fully believe that this new project will allow me to do that, and I am more motivated than ever to make this new partnership a success - not just for one season but as a long-term plan for us both."

Smiley's connections to EXCELR8 go back to his early racing career, team owner Justina Williams explaining: "I have known Chris since his days in the Mini Challenge when he won the title that we should have won in 2013!

"Back then, he was a dedicated and tenacious driver who never gave up. His recent seasons in BTCC have proved that this was no one-off.

"Chris always gives it his all and both I and the team are looking forward to seeing him and Senna take on the grandee teams, weekend after weekend."

Team-mate Proctor is the 21-year-old son of former racer Mark Proctor and he joins EXCELR8 from Subaru having previously driven - and won - for Vauxhall in 2018.

He and Smiley join a BTCC grid which will be headed by the West Surrey Racing BMW of four-time champion Colin Turkington from Portadown.

The series begins at Donington Park on March 28-29 with all 30 races being televised live on ITV4.

Belfast Telegraph