BTC Norlin Racing names Chris Smiley

Having secured two TOCA BTCC Licences, BTC Norlin Racing has announced the signing of Chris Smiley as its first driver for the 2017 BTCC season.

The team rejoins the grid having last raced in the series back in 2014 and has acquired the two Chevrolet Cruzes – and TBLs – used by Power Maxed Racing this year.

PMR will make use of two TOCA loan licences for its new Vauxhall programme.

Smiley joins the team having run a part campaign with Team HARD last year, with hotel development company Norlin having agreed a multi-year deal to take on the role of lead sponsor.

A second driver to partner Smiley will be announced in due course.

“We are delighted to announce this partnership with Norlin and to get Chris on board is a real coup,” team boss Bert Taylor said. “I worked with Chris at Team HARD this season and saw first-hand what a talent he is. He is utterly focused on his career and is dedicated to winning, which is the same passion that we have as a team.

“We have expanded the backroom staff at BTC Norlin Racing and have brought in expertise. We have taken on staff that have worked with the likes of RML and Triple Eight, so we feel confident we can move forward.

“We have chosen to run with the Chevrolets initially because it is a car we know well, and we have run them before,” added Taylor. “In the longer term, our plan is to become a constructor in our own right, and that is the aim for 2018.”

Smiley, who tested the Cruze following the conclusion of the 2016 season, admitted his delight at securing a deal and insisted he was approaching the new campaign as a clean start in his BTCC career.

“For me, this is the start of my BTCC career,” he said. “I didn’t really get enough running this year to learn anything, so I am starting afresh. I will be able to properly attack the championship in 2017.

“I am grateful for the people who have stood by me – and the guys at Norlin have been so enthusiastic. They are family friends and we have been able to put together a team of highly talented people behind us. I really can’t wait to get started.

“We want to be solidly in the top ten to start with and build from there. There is no reason we shouldn’t be expecting podiums and strong results from reversed-grid races over the latter part of the year.”