Multiple MINI Challenge race winner Rob Smith will graduate to the British Touring Car Championship in 2019, racing an MG6 for new BTCC team Excelr8 Motorsport.
Smith joins the team in stepping up from the one-make series to the BTCC, being officially confirmed as the outfit’s first driver signing.
The Telford racer has competed with the team for the past four years, racing under the moniker of the official MINI UK VIP Customer Team. The 26-year-old has secured seven wins and 18 podium finishes during his tenure in the MINI Challenge.
“It’s an absolute dream come true to be stepping-up to the British Touring Car Championship for 2019, and especially to be doing it with Excelr8 Motorsport”, said Smith. “As soon as I joined the team in 2014 it was clear that we both saw our future in the BTCC, so it’s fantastic to finally make it a reality.
“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes all year, and it’s fantastic to be in a position to confirm we’ll be on the grid at such an early stage.
“We’re in the process of finalising a couple of deals, and still have a number of sponsorship packages available, so we should have an exciting range of partners to reveal at the season launch.
“I have no doubt it will be a steep learning curve for both myself and the team, but continuity is key so hopefully by extending our relationship we will be able to add to the success we’ve already achieved.
“The MG6 is a proven package and one of the most successful cars of the NGTC era, so we have an excellent platform to build from and I know the team has some exciting plans for the future.”
Excelr8 Team Manager Oliver Shepherd said that continuing with one of their existing drivers from the MINI series was a logical step to take.
“Rob has been with us for a number of years now so we’re well aware of his ability and the effort he puts in to be successful, so we were very keen for him to make the step up with us,” said Shepherd.
“Working with a driver we know means we have one less variable to think about while we get to grips with the demands of the BTCC.
“He was involved in the development of the MINI Challenge JCW and our endurance car, so that experience should help us get an understanding of the MG6 over the winter.
“Rob knows exactly what he needs from the car and if we can deliver that then the results are sure to follow. He’s also very strong commercially, so we can be sure that our partners are going to be well represented both on and off-track.”
The identity of the second Exceler8 driver will be revealed in due course. The team join the BTCC grid after acquiring the cars and TOCA BTCC Licence [TBL] from Shaun Hollamby’s AmD Tuning team.