Talented Carrickfergus driver Chris Smiley tested his Toyota Avensis car for the first time last week as he prepares to step up to the British Touring Car Championship.
Smiley, who was announced by Team HARD last month as one half of their driver line-up, tested at Snetterton last month, racking up 400 miles around the Norfolk circuit ahead of his debut season.
The 23-year-old was delighted to finally get behind the wheel of the Avensis: “It went very well and the car ran faultlessly. We managed to do a lot of laps and we learnt a lot, but there is still plenty more to come!”
Smiley had previously tested a British Touring car as a reward for winning the JCW Mini Championship in 2013 and says he immediately felt more at home in this season’s revised Avensis: “The cars felt very similar, though I felt more comfortable in the Toyota.”
The Team HARD driver aims to fit in more testing before the season opener, however budget may limit how much track time he can get. “As with everything, budget is tight,” he added, “we have a long season ahead of us and we need to be sensible on what we spend on testing.”
“It’s a dream come true and a lot of hard work is starting to pay off!” revealed the former Downshire pupil, “I’m feeling good but I’ll feel more comfortable when we get more miles under the belt.”
His team boss Tony Gilham has already stated that regular points have to be the aim and his preparations have got off to an extremely positive start.
Jake Hill is to be Smiley’s team mate for the upcoming campaign. Hill has contested BTCC rounds previously, but never a full season.
“Anyone who has raced in the BTCC will always bring some extra information which is invaluable. We will work together as a team so hopefully the two of us can get further up the grid!”
Smiley hopes his preparations will pay off, adding: “We will be working extra hard to pay Tony and the sponsors and everyone involved back!”