Chris Smiley was recently announced as the British Touring Car driver for Team HARD. this year and in the first feature of a new behind-the-scenes series with the team, we wanted to find out a little more about him and his career up to this point.
His dad competed in motorcycle racing so, like many drivers, he caught the racing bug from an early age. Throughout his career so far he’s won multiple championships, plenty of awards and has tried his hand at a number of different series. Team HARD. boss Tony Gilham said Smiley was ‘one of the quickest drivers’ he’d ever seen.
BTCC isn’t Smiley’s first outing for the team, last year he jumped in a HARD VW for the final round of the VAG Trophy, winning both races.
The team are targeting regular points in BTCC this year with Smiley at the helm of a new, lighter Toyota Avensis.
We caught up with Chris to find out what makes him tick. His career spans 16 years (so far), he said: “My Dad has been involved in motorcycle racing his whole life. His team were British champions in 1997 with Woolsey Coulter and he also won five International North West 200 road races, so I’ve been involved in this world my whole life. I started karting when I was seven and have been racing ever since.”
During this time he’s competed in the Mini Challenge, Scirocco R Cup, Mini Cooper Cup and various kart formula but, of course, there are some moments that really stand out. He said: “My most memorable moments would have to be finishing third in the BRDC Stars of Tomorrow championship in 2006; winning at Knockhill in 2011 live on TV during a BTCC weekend in the Scottish Minis; becoming 2013 British MINI Challenge champion; being selected in 2014 to drive for VW in the Scirocco R Cup in Germany and winning a round at the Red Bull Ring; and, finally, winning the two VAG Trophy races with Team HARD. at Oulton Park last year.”
The BTCC deal has been a long time in the making and ever since those VAG Trophy races, Smiley and Gilham have been talking about how to take the parnership further. Smiley said: “Tony has been in close contact for a few years now and we’ve been working towards this now for the past six months. Tony made a massive effort for me to drive the car and after the two wins at Oulton we were talking everyday. Look where we are now!”
The team has already said it’s aiming for points and Smiley is ready to prove himself. He said: “I’d like to be consistent and learn as much as possible. I’m after those points finishes! Anything better than that and I’ll be over the moon.”
Alongside his car sales business, Smiley is focusing on his fitness and preparation ahead of getting in the car for the first BTCC round at Brands Hatch in April. He said: “I’m in the gym four nights a week and I’m running. I’m also watching previous races on board the cars because I want to be as prepared as possible. I’m focusing on getting sponsors and people involved with me back onboard again, as well as attracting new ones.”
Because of his day job, much of Smiley’s life revolves around cars but he also makes time for other hobbies such as cycling. Although when we asked what his hobbies were he did say ‘cars and more cars’.
Smiley has worked hard to get to this point in his career but he’s very aware that he couldn’t have done it alone. He said: “Thank you to my dad, Tony Gilham, and all my sponsors for their support. Without them we would be sitting at home!”
Keep an eye on what Team HARD’s newest recruit is up to on Twitter, give him a follow: @ChrisSmiley22.
We’ll be getting to know the rest of Team HARD. in due course, including the four drivers who will be driving the two Ginetta G55s in the British GT. The names will be announced soon, follow @TeamHARDRacing on Twitter to be the first to know.