26/07/2016

Smiley hopeful move to UK Clio Cup will lead to BTCC return

Chris Smiley will switch from the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship to the Renault UK Clio Cup grid for the remainder of the 2016 season – starting at Snetterton this weekend (Sat 30/Sun 31 July).
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Smiley, from Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, will join current UK Clio Cup points leader Ant Whorton-Eales in the JamSport Racing team – notably in the distinctive multi-coloured car originally meant for Tom Grundy (pictured left).

JamSport has strong ties with Team HARD for which Smiley has competed in the BTCC.

But commented the 24-year-old former MINI Challenge GB champion: “My first season in the BTCC hasn’t gone the way I had hoped. I need to get back to enjoying my motorsport and Team HARD have been very helpful in putting this deal together.

“I had a first run in the JamSport car at Donington Park last Friday and felt right at home. The UK Clio Cup car is a lovely piece of kit and felt great to drive, plus I was able to put in an identical time to Ant which is encouraging.

“Make no doubt about it – I feel I have unfinished business in the BTCC and being back in a tourer is what I want longer-term. The UK Clio Cup gives me the opportunity to prove myself again and work towards getting back there.”

Team HARD Team Principal Tony Gilham said: “Unfortunately ‘promised’ funding from sponsors never arrived so this had compromised Chris’s BTCC season from the outset. But he is a very real talent and we very much want to keep working with him.

"The UK Clio Cup is always on our radar as the ultimate feeder series to the BTCC and so is the best option for him to keep racing at a top level and to keep him sharp for a return to touring cars.”

And commented Jamie Going, JamSport Team Principal: “We’re very excited to have Chris in our team for the rest of the season – he showed very well in his first run in the car with last week and I believe he and Ant will work extremely well together on and off the track. It’s also nice to see our relationship with Team HARD working so well after Ant had a run in its touring car in early July.”

Will Fewkes, Renault Sport’s UK Motorsport Championship Manager, said: “Chris’s move from the BTCC to the UK Clio Cup is certainly an exciting piece of news. He has had plenty of success in hotly-contested categories for front-wheel-drive cars both in the UK and overseas and he undoubtedly adds to the stellar line-up of young driver talent on the UK Clio Cup grid in 2016.”