Sam Smelt began his return to the British Touring Car Championship this past week when he took to Donington Park and Snetterton for testing in the Toyota Corolla which he had previously sampled with the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK squad at the latter circuit last November.
Smelt will partner Rory Butcher this season and was excited following his opening foray with the new driver pairing settling in well as the days countdown to the season opener at Thruxton in May.
“The first few laps after the winter off-season always feel slightly strange, and it inevitably took a little bit of time to re-adapt after a year in the Supra. One thing that was immediately evident, though, was how easily the Corolla instils confidence, which is encouraging, and I paid a lot of attention to what Rory was doing. Given that he has driven some extremely rapid BTCC cars in recent years, the fact that he was happy is a really promising sign,” said Smelt.
“We encountered a few teething troubles with my car to begin with, but it was good to get them out of the way earlier rather than later and once they were resolved, the Corolla ran faultlessly. It was a shame that straight after I began my first representative run on new tyres at Snetterton, it began to rain, but it’s important to get wet-weather experience too and I was able to put a fair few laps on the board, which helped me to become more comfortable in the car and establish a good feel for it.
“I obviously know most of the Speedworks guys from last year and I’ve been able to bring my data engineer, Sergio, with me too. Being such an important relationship, that continuity certainly helps, as we don’t need to learn how each other works and can instead just crack on.
“Overall, these first few days felt like a little taster for me, but one that hinted at a lot of potential. I’m very optimistic that we will have a strong all-round package this year, which means it will come down to how quickly I can get up-to-speed between now and the start of the season. I’ll tell you one thing – I already can’t wait to get back out on-track!”