BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley believes he can challenge for another podium in the British Touring Car Championship races at Knockhill, with the Honda driver believing wet conditions will enable him to push forwards.
Smiley secured his second-best qualifying result of the season at Knockhill, ending up in fifth on the grid for the first race, behind a trio of rear-wheel drive BMW cars.
The third-row result came after Smiley had earlier been 13th in first practice and fourth in second practice, as he worked on improving his car throughout the day’s sessions.
The Northern Irishman was pleased with his performance, even though he felt that he could have gone even faster if he had been slightly less cautious and the track had not been affected by an oil slick partway through the session.
“I’m happy with fifth, as it puts us right up there for the first race,” said Smiley to TouringCars.Net. “Anything can happen as it’s going to be wet. With the sort of form that we’ve had in the rain in the past, I think our pace should be good.
“With a little bit more confidence I could probably have found a little bit more time if the oil hadn’t been on the track.
“I wanted to get as clean a lap as I could in without making a mistake or throwing it off. I was probably a little bit reserved, but I’m happy with fifth.
“I’m really happy with the car. Are we getting the ultimate out of it? No. There’s still a little bit more to come with me and the car.
“We’ve improved in our qualifying all year and we haven’t had a day’s testing to go out and explore. We basically turn up in free practice one, get the feel for the car, then in free practice two we throw a set of tyres in it, and whatever we find with the tyres on we’re then putting it in for qualifying.
“There’s a little bit we can work on, but fifth is a good result and there’s plenty of people who would give their right arm to be where I am on the grid.”
Smiley believes that the wet weather will favour him more than the BMWs starting ahead of him, with the 26-year-old sensing a strong result is possible in Scotland.
“I think the BMWs might struggle slightly in the rain. I want to be on the podium, so if it’s wet and we get a good balance with the car then there’s no reason why I can’t finish on the podium.
“But you have to finish – it’s so close and with the bunching up of the cars, one touch and you’re off. We need to be really careful, but I would like to go forward and hopefully challenge for a podium or even better.”