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Chris Smiley: ‘We’ve found the thing that’s made the car better’

Chris Smiley believes that BTC Racing has found an improvement in the team’s Honda after a recent test at Donington Park, with the Northern Irishman qualifying in second for Sunday’s first British Touring Car Championship race at Croft.

Smiley equalled his best-ever BTCC qualifying result in a much-interrupted session in North Yorkshire, ultimately ending up just 0.148 seconds away from Andrew Jordan’s pole position time.

The top Honda driver says the team recently carried out further testing at Donington Park, which the 27-year-old believes has led to an upturn in form.

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“This is only our fourth meeting with this new car,” said Smiley to TouringCars.Net. “I’ve had some flashes of pace with it, but it hasn’t been consistent.

“Last week we did a test at Donington and we made a massive change to it, and it suits what I think we need to get out of the car. That’s more positive than anything else really.

“We’ve found the thing in the car that’s actually made it better.”

Smiley says he has always gone well at Croft, adding that he could have performed even better on his last visit to the circuit in the BTCC if it wasn’t for mechanical issues in 2018.

His improved pace, combined with what he believes will be less of a tyre wear advantage for the rear-wheel drive cars, has left Smiley optimistic for raceday.

“Traditionally I’ve always gone really good here. We went really well here last year. Other than the fact we had an overheating problem in the car, we should have been right up in the top ten. When you look back at last year, we didn’t really get a fair go at it.

“The track is much grippier now, and I think that the tyre isn’t sliding across the top of the surface like it did on the old one, which was really abrasive, and it was very, very hard on tyres.

“I think the rear-wheel drive cars looked after their tyres much more on the older surface. Yes, they’re probably going to be slightly faster, but I think that advantage is maybe just not as much as it used to be in the race.”

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