THE AmD with Cobra Exhausts team will hope for a strong start to the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season when the new campaign kicks off at Brands Hatch this weekend.
The West Thurrock-based team makes the short trip to the Kent circuit with a new look line-up in place for the BTCC’s 60th anniversary season, with long-time AmD driver Ollie Jackson being joined by series newcomer Sam Smelt.
Tamworth-based Ollie embarks on his third year at the wheel of AmD with Cobra Exhaust’s Audi S3 seeking to build on arguably the strongest season of his BTCC career to date in 2017.
There, the 33-year-old regularly challenged for points finishes and also led a BTCC race for the first time at Croft.
For the first time, Ollie has enjoyed a full pre-season testing programme with the Audi, which has included track time in both the UK and overseas.
His focus during the weekend ahead is firmly on putting strong early season points on the board to build on the progress made last year.
Team-mate Sam faces the biggest weekend of his career to date as the 21-year-old from Northampton takes to the track for his touring car debut.
Having raced in the BTCC-supporting British F4 series last year, Sam is one of four rookies on the grid for 2018 and has enjoyed a solid pre-season as he acclimatises to his new surroundings.
With valuable mileage under his belt, Sam goes into the season opener seeking to continue his touring car education, with three solid trouble-free races being the main target on his debut.
Ollie Jackson, #48 Audi S3, said:
“We are better prepared than we ever have been for the start of a new season and with the upgrades to the car and the testing we have done, I’m confident we can enjoy a strong weekend.
“There are still a few things we want to try when the weekend gets underway, but we already have a quick package that we now need to just refine.
“The aim is to try and make sure we start this season where we finished the last one, and that means points in all three races has to be the target.
“I see no reason why we can’t look to push towards the top ten, and give ourselves a good foundation for the rest of the year.”
Sam Smelt, #23 Audi S3, said:
“Testing has gone pretty well and I think I’m roughly where I expected to be going into the opening rounds. Every time I have been out in the car, I think I have improved and hopefully by the time we get to the races on Sunday, I’ll be able to get involved in some battles and go racing.
“I know that it’s a big step to take into the BTCC but I’m feeling confident about the weekend ahead and can’t wait to get out there and race.
“If we could break into the points first time out then it would be amazing, but the main target for me is simply to stay out of trouble, bring the car home for three finishes and get as much experience under my belt as I can.”
Shaun Hollamby, AmD with Cobra Exhausts team principal, said:
“Thanks to the support of Cobra Exhausts, Carbon Clean and our other sponsors, we are probably in the best shape we have ever been with the Audis at the start of a season.
“The fact we have been able to get some decent testing under our belt has allowed us to plan for the season ahead, and has also given Sam the valuable running he needs ahead of his debut.
“It’s a huge step up for him into the BTCC but he has done a good job in testing and is getting stronger and stronger every time he goes on track. He is still learning but we’ve been impressed by how he is progressing and it will be interesting to see how he does on his debut.
“Ollie goes into the new season on the back of a strong 2017 and I feel he is driving better than he ever has done in the past. With that in mind, we’re confident that he can enjoy a strong start to the year and I think he is more than capable of bringing home some strong points this weekend.”