Following the Team’s first win before the summer break, ambitions to continue that level of success at Snetterton was high.
The Qualifying session on Saturday hadn’t gone as well as hoped, however both Chris and Dan have shown that they have the race craft to move their BTC Norlin Racing Hondas up the gird throughout the day, including the Diamond Double 60 mile race at the end of the day.
Before the lights went out on the first race, BTCC legend Tim Harvey and Fan Favourite Paul O’Neill sat down to discuss their 2018 highlights of the season so far.
Tim Harvey identified BTC Norlin Racing as the BTCC Surprise Package of the Year following the team’s first win and acknowledging the effort to get both cars rebuilt in less than two weeks, following the huge crashes that they had at Oulton Park.
He also gave Chris Smiley a Notable Mention after his front row performance at Donington Park and has also tipped Chris as one to watch for his first race win soon.
Starting 21st and 23rd respectively, Chris and Dan made impressive starts and by the end of the first lap Dan had moved up to 15th and Chris into 14th. Conditions were tricky and visibility was challenging with the whole grid running on the Dunlop BluResponse wet tyres.
With his heart set on the top ten, Chris pushed hard to make progress throughout the 12-lap race. By the second lap he was running 10th and the second lap saw Chris make a great move to pass Andrew Jordan and Tom Oliphant.
Next, he set his sights on Brett Smith and lap 5 saw him pass him to move into 8th. Chris fought off Tom Oliphant’s attempts to regain his position and on lap 10 he gained another place when Adam Morgan spun off the track, resulting in Chris taking the chequered flag in 7th.
Dan also made great progress up the grid and by lap 5 had also broken into the top ten which was a cracking drive, having started the race in 23rd. He hadn’t finished his charge either and crept up on Tom Oliphant to finish the race in 9th.
Without doubt, race one provided lots of excitement, not just from Chris and Dan’s drive through the pack of cars, but an intense battle for the first win of the day. Jack Goff managed to hold off the charging current BTCC Champion, Ash Sutton, who pushed hard but was pipped to the chequered flag by just one tenth of a second!
After their stellar drives in race one, Chris and Dan lined up in 7th and 9th respectively on the grid for race 2. The weather had settled considerably, and the decision to start the race on slick tyres was made on the grid.
Chris made a determined start to the race when the lights went out and entered the first corner in 4th place, alongside 3rd place Rob Austin and by the second corner had taken 3rd place. Under pressure from Josh Cook, Chris was able to hold him off for several laps, making his Honda Civic as wide as possible.
Unfortunately Cook was able to take the position just before crossing the line for the 7th lap, dropping Chris into 4th. Starting the race in 27th, Tom Ingram was on a mission and after a brief safety car period, he was on the charge for a podium position and passed Chris on lap 12. Chris took the chequered flag in 5th place but showcased his race craft in style and made the clear statement that he is on the hunt for that first win in the BTCC.
Dan had a solid start too and by the end of the first lap was running in 8th behind Tom Oliphant. Dan sustained some damage due to a tap from another car which made the car difficult on the drying circuit. However, Dan managed to pass Tom Oliphant and Rob Austin who had been busy in a tussle with Sam Tordoff, putting him into 6th.
Unfortunately, Dan’s race became a series of unfortunate incidents in which he was caught in other people’s incidents, dropping him from 6th to 13th. His woes were not to end there and he just before the safety car came out, he was back in 15th. Dan crossed the line in 15th and was undoubtedly disappointed with the result but was fired up to get back into the car for the Diamond Double race later in the day.
No ballast, all on the same tyres and 60 minutes of BTCC action, the Diamond Double race was guaranteed to provide plenty of racing up and down the now 29 car grid.
Both Chris and Dan got great starts to the final race of the day and by the end of the first lap, Chris was running 8th. Lap 3 saw the return of the safety car and the gaps that had opened in the field were closed again.
After two laps, the lights on the safety car went out and racing resumed. Laps 8 and 9 saw a small amount of rain fall on the circuit which resulted in a few cars sliding around the Norfolk circuit. The rain was short-lived and the racing continued. Chris benefited from a sliding Dan Cammish and Adam Morgan, getting him into 6th place ahead of Josh Cook. Chris defended his position against Josh for 3 laps, until current Championship leader Colin Turkington took up position at the rear of the BTC Norlin Racing Honda Civic on lap 14.
Chris kept the charging BMW at bay for no less than 4 laps, unphased, he made his Honda Civic the widest car on the circuit, providing a masterclass in defensive driving with a cool head. As the race approached its conclusion, Chris’ race ended parked up on the grass following contact and resulting in too much damage to continue, ended the incredible battle for 6th, which he fought so hard to hold on to.
Dan had made steady progress through the pack, picking up places and by lap 18, he had broken into the top ten and was running in 9th. Dan finally crossed the line in 9th and bagged himself 14th points.
“It has been a challenging weekend but we can take a lot of positives away from Snetterton.” added Team manager Bert Taylor. “Both Chris and Dan showed great pace throughout race day and pulled off some cracking moves.
“Chris’ drive in race three was fantastic and although I am disappointed for him that it ended as it did, I am ever so proud of what he has achieved and shown us this weekend on the track. I know that he will be back fighting for Rockingham.
“Dan suffered a lot of aggro this weekend in FP1 and FP2 and also in the races but Dan the man put in a great recovery drive that saw him bag a good haul of points in the final double points race. We head to Rockingham more determined than ever. This team has amazing staff, sponsors and fans and we continue to work hard to make everyone proud.”
Photography: Phil Laughton