AmD Tuning have confirmed that 21-year-old Sam Smelt will partner Ollie Jackson in the team’s Audi S3 racers in the forthcoming British Touring Car Championship season.
Jackson will continue with the West Thurrock-based team for a third straight season, whilst Smelt joins the team for only his second season of car racing. Both drivers will be eligible for the Jack Sears’ Trophy, which for 2018 is open to those drivers yet to score an outright podium finish.
21-year-old Smelt joins the BTCC after racing in the BTCC-supporting British F4 series, as well as the Volkswagen Racing Cup, where he earlier took part in six races.
The rookie only graduated from karting twelve months ago, and is aware that his graduation to the BTCC already represents a big step up the racing ladder.
“I really enjoyed the chance to sample the Audi when I tested back in November and came away from the day having ticked all the boxes I felt I needed to tick,” said Smelt. “Given how well it went with the team, I saw a good chance to make the move up the BTCC and am delighted that we’ve been able to agree a deal.
“I’m really excited about the fact that I’m going to be competing in the series this season, but I’m also aware that the step up is a big one in my second year of car racing.
“I think this will be a learning year for me, particularly in the first half of the season, and I’ll have to take it race-by-race and see how I get on.
“I’m expecting it to be tough at the start, but I’d like to think that as the year goes on, I’ll be able to start pushing for points finishes and fighting my way further up the field.”
Jackson, who cracked the top ten on two occasions in 2017, hopes that staying put with the same team for a third successive season will allow him to build on previous form.
“I’m delighted to be returning with the team for a third season with the Audi,” added the 33-year-old. “I am really excited about what 2018 holds.
“We made a lot of progress last year, but I don’t feel the job is finished yet, and I’d like to think that we can continue to build on everything we learned in 2017.
“The testing programme we have in place means we can do some proper pre-season running, and will allow us to be fully prepared for the start of the season at Brands. We’ll be able to hit the ground running and can then focus on maximising our performance on track.
“Having regularly challenged for points last year, the aim for me is to push for top ten finishes from the outset and I certainly feel that a podium could be possible if things fall our way.
“Independents’ class wins and the Jack Sears Trophy are certainly realistic, and I feel we have a good chance of coming away from 2018 with some silverware.”
Team Principal Shaun Hollamby is confident that his signings for 2018 will allow the team to make further progress up the grid, as they seek to move further up the grid in their ninth BTCC season.
“We’re pleased to confirm Ollie and Sam as our drivers for 2018, and are confident that both can enjoy a successful year on track,” said Hollamby.
“In Ollie’s case, he has taken huge strides forwards since he re-joined us back in 2016, particularly last year which was arguably his strongest season in the BTCC. Our hope for 2018 is to see him regularly challenge towards the top ten and push for the Jack Sears Trophy title.
“Sam faces a steep learning curve as a rookie driver, but he did a solid job when he tested the car in tricky conditions back in November. He is a youngster with a lot of potential, and there is no reason why he can’t look to challenge for points as the season goes on.
“We’re also delighted to have retained the support of Cobra Exhausts and a number of our other loyal sponsors for the year ahead. It has allowed us to work on some new developments for the Audi and also to put in place a full testing programme that means we go into 2018 in better shape than ever before.”