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Chris Smiley urges British Touring Car drivers to show 'more respect' to rivals in shortened season



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 reckons British Touring Car Championship drivers need to adopt a more gentlemanly approach ahead of the new season, which is pencilled in to begin at Donington Park next month.

The argy-bargy nature of the tin-top series is one of the reasons why it has such a huge following, but Smiley is urging his rivals to embrace a measured approach.

With four of the compressed calendar's initial five races happening in August, he says that places mechanics and engineers under big pressure to ensure cars can be turned around in record time. The schedule reshuffle is a consequence of coronavirus.

"Ensuring the car comes home in one piece is going to be a big part of this year's Championship," said the Carrickfergus man, who penned a deal back in February to drive for Exceler8 Motorsport.

"Making sure you are collecting as many points as possible without placing the car in real danger is going to be in the back of everyone's mind this year. Hopefully, the whole grid has a little bit more respect, that they won't go for a move that is not on and risk taking another car off meaning it might possibly not be available for the next round.

"I think a lot of people are going to have that in mind, but sometimes there are people who are a little further up the grid (than normal) and they make a mistake, like missing their braking point as you turn in and they wreck your car. People just need to try and read the situation."

Although seat time in the Hyundai i30N has been hampered by coronavirus, 27-year-old Smiley is confident he can build on his successes from the last two seasons.

Following a maiden win in 2018 at Rockingham, he returned three podium finishes in 2019 and a pole position around Snetterton. Before lockdown in March, he finished the first official test at Silverstone inside the top 10 despite an excursion at turn one bringing his strong early running to a premature end.

"This is a brand new car and it is a brand new manufacturer," he said. "We also had a two-day shakedown at Snetterton and completed 45 laps on day two. The Hyundai i30N feels good - we've made changes based on where we think we need to go.

"We want to win like everyone does and I'll be working on the weak areas that have cost me Championship points before. You need to be a complete driver; there is no point finishing first in the opening race and then coming last in the next two.

"Everyone wants to be BTCC champion. If you want to finish last and you don't want to win then you are in the wrong series, but with me having a new team and a new car we really don't know where we fit in. We hope to be somewhere near the front - that is where I want to be," he added. "We want to be taking home as many points and as many trophies as we can. I think that we are pretty well organised and quietly confident."

Belfast Telegraph