AMD announces Jackson and Smelt as 2018 BTCC driver pairing
The AmDTuning.com with Cobra Exhausts has signed young rookie Sam Smelt to pilot one of its Audi S3s in the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, while retaining Ollie Jackson as second driver.
Smelt is only in his second season of car racing, and in 2017 did half a season in the VW Racing Cup, followed by half a season in the FIA Formula 4 British championship which supports the BTCC.
The youngster, who tested for the team at Brands Hatch at the end of last year, is looking to gain as much experience as possible to make progress up the highly-competitive grid.
“I really enjoyed the chance to sample the Audi when I tested back in November," said Smelt, "I came away from the day having ticked all the boxes I felt I needed to tick. Given how well it went with the team, I saw a good chance to make the move up the BTCC and am delighted that we’ve been able to agree a deal.
“I’m really excited about the fact that I’m going to be competing in the series this season, but I’m also aware that the step up is a big one in my second year of car racing.
“I think this will be a learning year for me, particularly in the first half of the season, and I’ll have to take it race by race and see how I get on. I’m expecting it to be tough at the start, but I’d like to think that as the year goes on, I’ll be able to start pushing for points finishes and fighting my way further up the field.”
Tamworth-based Jackson returns for a third successive season with the team on the back of a strong 2017 that saw him lead a race for the first time and finish inside the top ten in the Independents’ championship.
He will seek to build on those results to regularly push towards the top ten, with the 33-year-old aiming to make the most of improvements being made to the Audi over the winter to try and push for a maiden podium finish.
“I’m delighted to be returning with the team for a third season with the Audi and am really excited about what 2018 holds," he said.
"We made a lot of progress last year but I don’t feel the job is finished yet, and I’d like to think that we can continue to build on everything we learned in 2017.
“The testing programme we have in place means we can do some proper pre-season running, and will allow us to be fully prepared for the start of the season at Brands. We’ll be able to hit the ground running and can then focus on maximising our performance on track.
“Having regularly challenged for points last year, the aim for me is to push for top ten finishes from the outset and I certainly feel that a podium could be possible if things fall our way.
“Independents’ class wins and the Jack Sears Trophy are certainly realistic, and I feel we have a good chance of coming away from 2018 with some silverware.”
The West Thurrock-based team heads into the new campaign seeking to build on the impressive progress made throughout last year, when it picked up it’s best points haul in the series to date.
AmDTuning team principal Shaun Hollamby said "We’re pleased to confirm Ollie and Sam as our drivers for2018, and are confident that both can enjoy a successful year on track.
“In Ollie’s case, he has taken huge strides forwards since he rejoined us back in 2016, particularly last year which was arguably his strongest season in the BTCC. Our hope for 2018 is to see him regularly challenge towards the top ten and push for the Jack Sears Trophy title.
“Sam faces a steep learning curve as a rookie driver, but he did a solid job when he tested the car in tricky conditions back in November. He is a youngster with a lot of potential, and there is no reason why he can’t look to challenge for points as the season goes on.