Chris Smiley will join Excelr8 Motorsport for the 2020 British Touring Car Championship season, racing one of the Suffolk team’s new Hyundai i30 N Fastback cars.
Smiley joins the East Anglian team after three seasons with BTC Racing, during which time the Northern Irishman secured a maiden win in 2018 at Rockingham.
Last year proved to be a challenging season for Smiley, as he managed just three podium finishes on his way to 14th overall in the drivers’ championship standings whilst team-mate Josh Cook went on to claim three wins and end the year fourth in the standings, after taking the title fight to the final round.
Smiley will line up alongside Senna Proctor in the team, which will thus sport an all-new look for its second year in the BTCC, having changed drivers and cars for the coming campaign.
“I’m very excited to be joining Excelr8 Motorsport for the new season,” said Smiley. “It is going to be a good challenge to work with the team and bring Hyundai into the BTCC as a new manufacturer
“I know the team at EXCELR8 have made an incredible effort with the new car over the winter months and have strengthened their engineering capabilities and brought in some very talented people to work on the project.
“Developing a new car is always a great challenge, and to do it with a brand that has a tremendous passion for motorsport like Hyundai means this is a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved to create something really special.
“The BTCC is an ultra-competitive championship and being a race winner in the series I know that I can mix it at the sharp end of the series.
“I fully believe that this new project will allow me to do that, and I am more motivated than ever to make this new partnership a success – not just for one season but as a long-term plan for us both.”
The 27-year-old has been welcomed into the team for his fifth season in the BTCC by Team Principal Ollie Shepherd.
“Chris Smiley alongside Senna Proctor, what a driver line-up,” said Shepherd. “We now know that we have the drivers to win BTCC races [and] we have the best-looking operation to do our partners proud.
“We have a superstar engineering team to be announced and we have new cars that are ticking all the right boxes during the development and build process.
“2020 will be the year when we surprise the establishment! Overconfident? No way! Chris and Senna are two of the best young drivers in BTCC and this year we will do our very best to give them the tools to get the job done.”
Team owner Justina Williams believes that the outfit will prove their front-running credentials in the series in 2020, having spent 2019 learning the ropes with the ageing MG6 cars towards the back of the pack.
“I have known Chris since his days in the MINI Challenge, when he won the title that we should have won in 2013,” added Williams.
“Back then, Chris was a dedicated and tenacious driver who never gave up, his recent seasons in BTCC have proved that this was no one off.
“Chris always gives it his all and both I and the team are looking forward to seeing him take on the grandee teams, weekend after weekend.
“2020 will be the year when we show we are not just in BTCC to make up the numbers, we are here to win.
“With our new Hyundai cars, two experienced and blisteringly fast young drivers in Chris and Senna, along with a star engineering signing, we are sure to leap up the grid, though of course, time will tell!”