In terms of raw speed, Rob Smith was one of the fastest drivers in the MINI Challenge JCW series last year. Two wins and six further podiums could have left him at the front, though six retirements and a mediocre start to the season left him on the back foot.
After a winter away, Smith returns to once again fight for the title. Last years champion Brett Smith has moved on to the BTCC, while runner-up Reece Barr has joined the European TCR Series. With Max Bladon also absent, Smith’s greatest competition will likely come from his MINI UK VIP teammate and 2015 champion Charlie Butler-Henderson.
“We were the only driver and team combination to consistently take the fight to championship winner Brett Smith last year”, said Rob, “But for some unfortunate non-finishes, not of our making, we would have taken the championship down to the last round. That’s the way motorsport works sometimes, but this season I have only one goal in mind – winning the title.”
He will still face stiff competition though from the other 31 drivers, with former BTCC racers Ant Whorton-Eales and Paul O’Neill stepping down. Matt Neal will also make an appearance at Oulton, while Ginetta GT5 Champion Lewis Brown joins the AReeve Motorsport alongside Open Class champion Ben Dimmack.
“My aim is still to enter the BTCC in 2019,” continued Smith. “Winning races in such a strong, competitive and highly regarded championship as MINI Challenge will hopefully attract the sponsors I need to progress.”
The 25-year-old enters his home event at Oulton Park hoping to improve on last years solitary podium.