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Smith set for BTCC bow

BTCC newcomer Rob Smith graduates to the UK’s biggest and best motor racing championship with Excelr8 this weekend, after learning his ‘tin top’ trade in the Renault UK Clio Cup and MINI Challenge.

Having established a tremendous relationship with Justina Williams’ Suffolk-based Excelr8 squad in recent years, both entities make their respective debuts in the BTCC together at Brands Hatch this weekend (6/7 April).

Despite a problem with the Excelr8 Motorsport MG6 cutting short his test around the 1.2-mile Indy Circuit last week, the Telford driver still enjoyed a competitive run up against the opposition for the first time.

“I’m reasonably happy with how everything went in the morning session,” he said. “To be just under 0.8 seconds off [Sam Tordoff’s fastest time] was good and I was only a tenth [of a second] away from what Rory Butcher did in qualifying at Brands in the MG6 last season. Considering how experienced he is at this level I was pleased to be there, and especially as we haven’t had very much testing at all so far.

“There’s still much more to come, making upgrades to the car has been time consuming and has meant we’re coming in on the back foot in terms of track time compared to the others. We’re starting off with a very strong foundation, though, considering our limited prep and the benefit of not being able to run in the afternoon was that we were able to go through the data in real detail.”

Smith is joined by team-mate Sam Osborne for his maiden season in the 30-car Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, and he feels that both he and the squad will be punching above their weight in no time.

“As a baseline, the car is really good so it’s just a matter of fine tuning that and then I think we’ll be punching above our weight in the BTCC,” he concluded. “As I expected from the Excelr8 guys, they’re doing a great job and we’re only going to get quicker.”

Following two free practice sessions at Brands Hatch on Saturday, the first qualifying session of Smith’s rookie BTCC season will get underway at 15.10 and will be streamed live online at the www.itv.com/btcc website.

On Sunday, round one will commence at 11.30, round two will get underway at 14.15 and round three will start at 17.05. All three touring car races will be streamed online and broadcast live across the UK on free-to-air channel ITV4.

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