Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship newcomer Rob Smith enjoyed a very productive first ‘official’ outing in the category at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this week, during the annual pre-season Media Day.
With just over a week to go until the Telford driver’s BTCC race debut at the Kent track, Smith put together a strong morning session on Wednesday, 27th March, at the wheel of his Excelr8 Motorsport MG6 to conclude the outing with a best lap of 48.883 seconds (88.95mph).
Placing 20th on the times, within 0.8 seconds of the outright pace, the Shropshire driver was also 14th in the Independents Trophy classification and ahead of ‘manufacturer’ entries like double BTCC Champion Jason Plato and 2017 Champion Ashley Sutton.
Frustratingly, hub failure right at the end of the morning run meant Smith had to sit-out the faster afternoon session so the multiple MINI Challenge race winner eventually ended the day 0.9 seconds shy of the top of the times.
“I’m reasonably happy with how everything went in the morning session, to be just under 0.8 seconds off 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”, said Smith, “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.”
He added: “Importantly, I think we found in the data what we need to change to make the car more how I want it. 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. As I expected from the Excelr8 guys, they’re doing a great job and we’re only going to get quicker.”
Smith, of course, graduates to the UK’s biggest and best motor racing championship with Excelr8 this year after learning his ‘tin top’ trade in the Renault UK Clio Cup and, over the last four seasons, the ultra-competitive MINI Challenge.
Having established a tremendous relationship with Justina Williams’ Suffolk-based Excelr8 squad in recent years, the terrific continuity as both entities make their respective debuts in the BTCC really will be a huge bonus as the partnership seeks to become a consistent points challenger.
For his maiden season in the 30-car BTCC, Smith is delighted to welcome Draper Tools as the title partner for 2019 alongside major personal partner Lane Roofing and additional personal partners BMTR, Genco Logistics and CAM Systems.
Evolution Fire and Security, Third Millennium and Rocket Graphics have also been confirmed as major partners with additional team support coming from Credo Asset Finance and Integro Insurance Brokers.
In order to maximise his challenge in the BTCC in 2019, Smith is also seeking additional commercial partnerships to help realise his full potential in his rookie touring car season. Partners interested in being part of the UK’s premier championship are invited to contact Rob directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Following two free practice sessions at Brands Hatch next Saturday, 6th April, 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, 7th April, 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.