EXCELR8 DISPLAY RAW PACE AT BRANDS HATCH
Solid points and exceptional pace were the highlights of a sweltering Brands Hatch weekend for the EXCELR8 Motorsport team. The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship uncharacteristically visited the Grand Prix circuit during the height of summer – an unusual position for many teams, who are used to ending the season on the layout in cooler autumnal temperatures.
The Hyundai i30 Fastback N Performance was a prominent front-runner throughout, with Senna Proctor and Chris Smiley both picking up points for the second-year squad.
Proctor proved to be one of the fastest drivers on-track on Saturday as he qualified seventh, translating that pace on Sunday to pick up 24 of the team’s 28 points at the weekend. Smiley also impressed with his drives through the field in races two and three, showcasing his overtaking ability on the high-speed track.
An exciting start to race day saw Proctor expertly take avoiding action on the opening lap of the first contest. Consequently, he lost a few places, but he was not prepared to hold back, immediately closing in on the battle for seventh. From 15th on the grid, meanwhile, Smiley was struggling with 24kg of success ballast on board, but he nonetheless showed off his defensive prowess.
An incident later brought out the safety car, bunching up the field. Proctor was quick to act at the re-start, diving past Jake Hill and gaining another place when leader Rory Butcher picked up a puncture. Crossing the line, both drivers had fought back to claim EXCELR8’s first-ever double points finish.
It was a full reset for the team in race two as Proctor and Smiley once again started seventh and 15th, but any hopes of Smiley joining his team-mate were dashed when he ran across the gravel at Sheene Curve. A safety car neutralised the action after only a handful laps, giving Proctor and Smiley another opportunity to head forward in the Hyundais.
Smiley may have been down, but he was not out, fighting back two places on the first lap of the re-start as Proctor was again stuck in a long queue, this time behind race one podium-finisher Ollie Jackson. Despite strong pace, 24kg of weight hampered the Yorkshireman’s momentum and he crossed the line an admirable eighth.
Having fallen to 26th and last, Smiley proved the skill that had rewarded the #22 machine with a podium at Donington Park, gaining 13 places to finish 13th, inside the points and ahead of his original grid spot.
The Northern Irishman’s remarkable race two recovery was made bittersweet after the top twelve were then reversed for race three – one place in front of the Hyundai. The reverse positions conversely gifted Proctor fifth on the grid, but he unfortunately got tangled up with Jack Goff at the start, dropping outside the top ten. He went on to fight back from 15th to ninth in a race of attrition.
Meanwhile, the forward-thinking Smiley was making light work of those around him, quickly scything up to seventh in the opening few laps. He was far from done though, working all the way up to fourth and into the Independent class podium places. Unfortunately, with two laps to go, he clipped a kerb harder than usual, causing him to spin and hit the barrier, which scuppered what would have been an incredible result.
“Our first double points finish with both Hyundais, what an achievement!” said Team Manager, Justina Williams. “The speed shown by Senna during qualifying underlines the raw pace the team has been able to produce since the start of the season, and Chris’ drive through the field in races two and three are testimony to how easy this car is to mix it with the front-runners.
“On a day during which the higher temperatures affected our rivals, I am proud of the EXCELR8 team for the work they put into the car to make it race-worthy. Chris was unlucky at the end after such an amazing drive; both he and Senna have proven that we can be a regular threat for silverware this season. We’ve now got a slightly longer turnaround before the next one, giving us a chance to further improve on the package we’ve got.”
“I made a mistake, caught the kerb on the exit of Sheene Curve and put a wheel on the grass,” said Smiley. “We’re racing with such fine margins and I apologise to the team after all their work, especially after we got the car up to where we needed and given that I tend not to make mistakes.
“What I showed in race three was genuine pace. I was very happy with the whole team, especially my engineer Danny Kent for doing a good job to get us back into contention.”