Chris Smiley will swap from BTC Racing to Excelr8 Motorsport for the 2020 BTCC season, as the Northern Irishman was announced as the driver for the team’s second Hyundai i30 N Performance.
Smiley, who finished the 2019 season 14th in the overall standings secured three podiums and a maiden pole position last year and 2020 will mark his fourth full season in the BTCC. After making his debut in a TLC Racing Toyota Avensis 2016, Smiley has spent three full seasons at BTC Racing before the switch ahead of 2020.
A former Mini Challenge JCW Class Champion, 27-year old Smiley expressed his excitement at joining Excelr8 and helping to bring the new Hyundai into the BTCC.
“I’m very excited to be joining EXCELR8 Motorsport for the new season, ” Smiley said. “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.”
A BTCC race winner in 2018 at Rockingham, Smiley was in a confident mood when assessing his chances ahead of the upcoming season.
He continued, “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.”
Excelr8 Motorsport Team Principal Ollie Shepherd was delighted to secure Smiley’s services for 2020 and was excited to be fielding two former race winners in Smiley and teammate Senna Proctor.
Shepherd said “Chris Smiley alongside Senna Proctor, what a driver line-up! We now know that we have the drivers to win BTCC races, we have the best-looking operation to do our partners proud, we have a superstar engineering team to be announced and we have new cars that are ticking all the right boxes during the development and build process. 2020 will be the year when we surprise the establishment!
Overconfident, no way! Chris and Senna are two of the best young drivers in BTCC and this year we will do our very best to give them the tools to get the job done.”
Justina Williams, Excelr8 Motorsport team owner was also pleased to see Smiley come on board.
“I have known Chris since his days in the Mini Challenge,” Williams said. “He won the title that we should have won in 2013! Back then, Chris 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 me and the team are looking forward to seeing him take on the grandee teams, weekend after weekend. 2020 will be the year when we show we are not just in BTCC to make up the numbers, we are here to win.”
Williams expressed her excitement at signing both Smiley and Proctor and hinted at more big-name signings to come. She also paid tribute to outgoing driver Rob Smith, who contested the team’s maiden BTCC season in 2019.
She continued, “with our new Hyundai cars, two experienced and blisteringly fast young drivers in Chris and Senna, along with a star engineering signing (soon to be announced), we are sure to leap up the grid, though of course, time will tell!
I would also like to wish Rob Smith all the best for his future racing plans. We really hoped to get Rob racing with us again this year, but the budget just didn’t come together in time, but we will be working hard with Rob to get him back in BTCC in 2021“
Chris Smiley and Senna Proctor will make their Excelr8 Motorsport race debut on the 28th/29th March opening BTCC weekend at Donington Park.