The waiting is almost over, and for Chris Smiley the delayed British Touring Car Championship represents a whole new ball game.
Not just a new team and new car but a new scenario of Covid monitors, face masks, sanitisers, restricted support crew and limited spectators in the stands. There is also the challenge of fitting almost a full programme of 27 races into half a season.
"It is going to be intense but I can't wait to get started," said the 27-year-old from Carrickfergus, who switches from BTC Racing to the Exceler8 team for the debut of their all-new Hyundai i30N Fastback alongside Senna Proctor as the BTCC season finally kicks off at Donington this weekend.
"We have four meetings - that's 12 races - in the first five weeks, so taking care of the car is going to be critical because there will be so little repair time between weekends. In addition, with crew members at the circuits cut from 12 to eight, it will be important to try to avoid damage during the races.
"Competition is so close in the BTCC that accidents will happen and you can pick up damage, but this year especially it is going to be crucial to try to stay out of trouble and finish every round."
Race winner Smiley, who joins fellow Ulsterman and four-time champion Colin Turkington on the Donington grid, has had more than his share of damage in his three years in the series, usually not his fault and often caused by qualifying in the mid-pack. That's why he is targeting a top-10 spot in qualifying.
"That's my goal. If you can get in the top-10 and have three strong finishes then you can really put yourself in Championship contention by being consistent and scoring some big points," added Smiley, who set off for Donington yesterday driving the motorhome that will be the base for himself and his dad Charlie, a top motorcyclist in his day and a multi-North West 200 winner.
"Having the motorhome means we are self-contained, don't have to move outside the circuit and are able to stay within the controlled environment of the paddock."
The Draper Tools-backed Hyundai shaped up well in pre-season testing with both Smiley and Proctor setting top-10 times but he stresses all the teams are stepping into the unknown.
"We started from scratch with the i30 but have been hugely encouraged by the way it has developed so far. It appears to be a good car and it is all about the fine tuning, getting the small details right, that will determine how competitive we are.
"We are all going into the unknown at this stage but you can be sure the usual suspects will be challenging at the front, and we are optimistic we can be up there too."
Qualifying takes place on Saturday with the three races on Sunday, all of them televised live on ITV4.
The Donington meeting also features two rounds of the UK Ginetta Junior Championship and will see promising 16-year-old Methodist College student Tom Edgar follow in the wheel tracks of Andrew Watson and Daniel Harper, who both started their cross-channel careers in the series.