The AmDTuning.com with Cobra Exhausts BTCC team can today confirm that Ollie Jackson and Sam Smelt will race the teams Audi S3s in the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season.
The 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. Tamworth-based Ollie returns for a third successive season with the team on the back of a strong 2017 that saw him start a race from pole, lead a race for the first time and finish inside the top ten in the Independents' championship standings.
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. Ollie will also look to challenge for honours in the revised Jack Sears Trophy, which is now open to drivers who go into 2018 having yet to take to the overall podium.
New team-mate Sam meanwhile will be making his debut in the series this season as he makes a return to tin-top competition for 2018. The 21-year-old from Northampton ended last year racing in the BTCC-supporting British F4 series, having earlier competed in the Volkswagen Racing Cup. Having graduated from karting twelve months ago, this season will be Sam's second year in car racing, with the youngster looking to gain as much experience as possible to make progress up the highly-competitive grid.
Work is currently ongoing to prepare the two Audis for pre-season testing, which is scheduled to get underway in February ahead of the opening meeting of the season.
Ollie Jackson, #48 Audi S3, said:
“I'm delighted to be returning with the team for a third season with the Audi and am really excited about what 2018 holds. 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."
Sam Smelt, #23 Audi S3, said:
“I really enjoyed the chance to sample the Audi when I tested back in November and 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."
Shaun Hollamby, team principal, said:
“We're pleased to confirm Ollie and Sam as our drivers for 2018, 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."