Carrick racer Chris Smiley bagged his best result in his debut season at the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in Yorkshire at the weekend.
Hot prospect Smiley, alongside teammate Dave Newsham, took part in one of the most pivotal rounds of the BTCC at Croft Circuit – often regarded as the most challenging and technical course on the competition's racing calendar.
The BTC Norlin team had to start Race 1 down the grid after not completing a lap due to a multi-car collision on qualifying, which ultimately left three drivers hospitalised. After picking up two 20th place positions in Races 1 and 2, Smiley produced a BTCC career best performance with a 13th place finish.
Portadown’s double-BTCC champion Colin Turkington – known as the “King of Croft” – finished sixth in the same race, leaving him in third in the overall standings.
Smiley’s performance now pushes the former Mini Challenge champion into 13th position in the independent drivers’ standings.
“It’s been a great finish to a tough weekend," Smiley said. "Despite going well in the practice sessions, the accident in qualifying knocked us down the grid a bit.
“But this is my highest place finish at a BTCC race to date. I secured my first ever pole positon here, so this means a lot to me.”
After picking up a puncture in Race 1 with two laps remaining, Smiley’s teammate Newsham found himself at the back of the grid for Race 2. Driving strongly back up the field, he would finish in 19th and 15th positions in his races respectively. Despite this, he sits in seventh position in the independent drivers’ standings.
Newsham said: “This was a fantastic performance by Chris – he has been driving very well and he thoroughly deserves this super result.
“Being caught up in a 12-car crash as well puncturing, it certainly wasn’t the weekend I was looking for, but the team worked flawlessly together. We’re in an exciting place right now and will be taking lessons from our time here to our next race at Snetterton in July.”