Multiple MINI CHALLENGE race winner Rob Smith returns to Excler8 Motorsport and the MINI UK VIP team for another season in the Evergreen Tyres backed #37 JCW.

Having taken to the podium in his first MINI CHALLENGE event in 2013 and followed this up with a win at Silverstone the following year, Smith entered his first full MINI CHALLENGE season in 2015 in the all new JCW class.

After dominating the first round at Donington, taking pole position and two wins, 25 year old Smith headed the points up until the mid-point of the season when bad luck set in, limiting him to four further podiums.

The bad luck continued into 2016 with Smith unable to truly capitalise on his potential until the second half of the season. Despite this, four podiums and pole position in the wet at Oulton Park showed he should never be discounted.

“I’m delighted to be returning to the JCW class with Excelr8 and the MINI UK VIP team for 2017,” comments Smith. “There’s no denying that we have the pace to win the championship, there hasn’t been a single round over the last two seasons where we haven’t been in contention at some point.”

“The missing ingredient has been some good fortune. Charlie (Butler-Henderson, 2015 champion) and David (Grady, 2016 Champion) have both shown that the key to winning the championship is consistency, and we just haven’t been able to replicate that.”

I’m confident that we can turn things around for 2017 and I hope to pick up as many wins and podiums as possible. Having said that, the main aim is never to finish outside the top 6. If we can do that I think we stand every chance of fighting for the title.”

Smith aims to make the leap into the British Touring Car Championship for 2018 and had his first taste of BTCC machinery during 2016, after being handed a test with Power Maxed Racing. The experience left him in no doubt that the MINI CHALLENGE JCW class is the best possible preparation.

“The car made a big first impression, but once I’d acclimatised to it the overall feel and dynamics are surprisingly similar to the JCW and within ten laps I was able to produce reasonably competitive times. Combined with the door to door nature of the racing, I can’t think of a better championship to prepare for the BTCC than the JCW’s.”