BRANDS HATCH JCW PREVIEW - MINI CHALLENGE

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MINI CHALLENGE veteran Chris Smith isn’t feeling the pressure of chasing a breakthrough race victory this season, and would be content with a strong haul of points at Brands Hatch this weekend.

Smith heads into the triple-header around the Kent venue’s Indy Circuit in fourth place in the points, but has yet to score a race victory in the new JCW machines.

With the Challenge being the headline event at Brands Hatch’s annual MINI Festival, it would be the perfect stage for Smith to break his duck and close the points gap to championship leader Nathan Harrison.

But Smith says he’d be happy to play it cautious and consistent instead if needed.

“The MINI Festival is always a great event, it gets a huge crowd and it’s great to race in front of so many fans, and things like the grid walk are also superb,” says Smith.

“It will be an incredibly tight weekend, as everybody will be so close on the Indy Circuit and the entry list is crammed. I’d expect the top 10 to be within a tenth of a second of each other.

“I’m firmly in the championship fight, but without really being spectacular so far. My team-mate Jono [Brown] has won races so far this year, as has Charlie Butler-Henderson and Nathan Harrison, so everybody above me in the points is a winner. It’s not bothering me too much as if you look back at my years in the Challenge I was never a prolific winner, but was always in the title fight until the end.

“Qualifying this weekend will be crucial, perhaps more so than at any other round. The Indy Circuit is fast and flowing, but it’s essentially four corners and you have to nail each one to get a good time as fractions of a second left on the table make a big difference.”