TCR UK champion Chris Smiley is "aiming high" at Snetterton opener

On the eve of the 2023 TCR UK Championship, title holder Chris Smiley says he is excited to discover the race-winning potential of his new generation Honda Civic Type R TCR.
TCR UK champion Chris Smiley is

The Northern Irishman begins the defence of his crown at Snetterton on Sunday – the first double-header of the season – against 23 other drivers that include former champions and race winners.

In the build-up to the first 20 minute sprint, Smiley will take to the Norfolk circuit for Free Practice on Saturday morning (10.40am) followed by qualifying at 2.15pm.

The Honda project has been a somewhat last-minute affair as the First Response Finance-backed machine was only signed-off by touring car specialist JAS Motorsport last week.

The delay has been put down to both parties wanting to ensure every box was ticked during the handover process as this weekend heralds the car’s competitive debut anywhere in the world.

Smiley – along with engineers from Bert Taylor’s Restart Racing team – travelled to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium last Wednesday to collect the Japanese hatch and bring it back to the UK before it was stickered up in its new black, white and grey colour scheme.

Despite being pushed for time, and having had limited running in it during pre-season, Smiley is confident that both man and machine are in good shape.

“Just like last year, it has been a crazy few weeks just ahead of the season start. Last year, we took delivery of the car just before the first race, and somehow, we have ended up doing the same again,” explained the 31-year-old.

“This time, we have the newest touring car in the world at our disposal, which means we know we have a car with fantastic potential, but with that we may need some time to understand it and work through any teething issues.

“So, we are going in to this weekend aiming high, but we are aware it will be a different year to last year.

“We know the Honda Civic Type R FL5 will be a very capable car, but this year with 23 other drivers on the grid as the TCR UK championship continues to grow, it is going to be a very intense, and no doubt exciting season.”

He added: “We have some fantastic partners on hand though, and we are welcoming First Response Finance too, an amazing brand to have on board as we fight for the championship.”

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