Photo: Jakob Ebrey

EXCELR8 retains Chris Smiley for second season

The EXCELR8 Trade Price Cars team has confirmed that Chris Smiley will continue at the wheel of one of its Hyundai i30 N Fastbacks for the 2021 BTCC season.

Smiley joined the team last season from BTC Racing, and secured a podium finish first time out in the Hyundai at Donington Park.

The Northern Irish driver would end the season 14th in the standings and is the second driver to be confirmed as part of an expanded four-car line-up after Jack Butel, who switches over from Ciceley Motorsport.

It will be the first time in his career that Smiley has driven the same package in the BTCC for two successive seasons.

“It’s fantastic to be able to confirm that I am staying with EXCELR8 Trade Price Cars for another season, and it’s great that the team has put its faith in me once again,” he said. “This is the first time that I will be going into a second year with an unchanged package since I joined the touring car grid, and that consistency can only be a good thing.

“Last year was a real challenge for us with a new car because the pandemic meant we couldn’t go out and do as much testing as we wanted to do. Despite that, we showed the potential of the Hyundai, secured a podium finish and were regularly fighting in the points, and I’m feeling positive about what we can achieve this season with everything we were able to learn in 2020.

“With the winter development programme that the team has in place, and the fact that we will now have four cars to share data between, I’m hopeful that we can push for more silverware and fight for race wins during 2021, which has to be the ultimate goal.

“We know there is still more to unlock from the Hyundai, and I’m looking forward to working with the team to get the maximum possible from it during the upcoming season.”

Team owner Justina Williams said re-signing Smiley was a key move for the team going into its third season on the grid.

“We’re delighted to confirm that Chris will be staying with us for 2021 as he has quickly become an important member of the team,” she said. “I’ve known him a long time from when he raced against us in the MINI Challenge, and he has been a great driver to work with over the last twelve months; his work ethic both on and off track is fantastic.

“As a driver, he is someone who you know will never give up, and he played an important role in helping us to develop the new car last season. The situation we found ourselves in, with not being able to go and test, meant that wasn’t always easy, but he was always keen to work with the engineering team to explore what we needed to do to get the most from the car, and was willing to try different things to see what worked, and what didn’t. That was reflected in some of the results we achieved in the first year for the car, and has given us a good base to now build on.

“The fact that Chris has experience with the Hyundai already can only be a good thing as we look to take the next step forwards in 2021. I have no doubt at all that he is a driver who can go out there and fight for race wins, as he has done in the past.”