Former Mini champ Smiley makes BTCC move with Team Hard
Team Hard bosses have targeted regular top 10 finishes in the British Touring Car Championship this season after signing former Mini Challenge champion Chris Smiley.
The Northern Irishman, who contested the Volkswagen Scirocco R-cup in 2014, will drive the squad’s updated Toyota Avensis, which features a new lighter chassis.
Team principal Tony Gilham said: “We have followed Chris’s progress closely, and everyone who has worked with him knows he is a talent. The BTCC is very competitive and we know that, but there is no reason we can’t regularly be in the points. That has to be our target for the season.”
Smiley, who tested a Triple Eight Racing MG as his prize for winning the Mini Challenge’s Best of British Award, said he was looking forward to the progression. “The NGTC cars aren’t hugely different to the Minis or the Scirocco,” he said. “They’re both turbocharged and front-wheel drive, but the touring car is weighted very differently and the suspension behaves much differently as they aren’t production cars so they feel more racy. I also have to learn about the tyres because this will be the first time I’ve raced in a series with two different tyre compounds. It all adds to the challenge but I can’t wait to get going.” ● Team Hard has bought two Ginetta G55s to run in the GT4 division of the British GT Championship this season. It will operate the cars alongside 14 Volkswagen Racing Cup machines. “Team Hard wants to be represented on all rungs of the ladder, and putting a GT programme in place made perfect sense for us,” said Gilham. “Single-seaters are becoming prohibitively expensive but we want to help young drivers up the ladder. By adding a GT programme to our BTCC attack, we have all of the bases covered.”