In his first outing since winning the 2018 Formula Ford Festival, Josh Smith narrowly missed out on victory on his debut in the 2019 British GT Championship opening race at Oulton Park.
The 19-year-old was racing with Tolman Motorsport in his first race since joining the McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme, driving the McLaren 570S GT4 alongside James Dorlin.
A day of running through setups and system checks greeted the team on Easter Friday testing before further practice and qualifying on Saturday saw the duo qualify ninth in class.
Dorlin started the first race of the weekend on Easter Monday, making a lightning start to take the #4 McLaren into the class lead in the opening stages of the race.
After being pushed wide, Dorlin slid back down to seventh place before handing over to Smith for the second half of the race which saw him exit the pitlane side-by-side with the class-leading HHC Motorsport McLaren.
Smith would hold on to the end of the race to secure a podium finish on his race debut, taking the chequered flag in second place in the GT4 class.
“A podium result makes this a great start to the 2019 season, especially given that we started ninth. The McLaren 570S GT4 felt incredible throughout both races and, with more time in the car, things can only get better,” said Smith.
The second race of the weekend would see Smith take the driving seat for the start as he lined up from tenth in class on the grid.
An impressive start saw the #4 McLaren pass three drivers, moving up to seventh place in the early stages of the race. On track incidents ahead would see Smith move up to fifth place before a safety car period.
On the restart, Smith moved up to fourth place before handing the car over to Dorlin for the second part of the race.
Unfortunately, another safety car period saw the team drop out of contention for a podium finish before a drive-through penalty dropped them down to fourteenth place.
Smith and Dorlin head to the second round of the British GT Championship at Snetterton on 18-19 May in fifth place in the GT4 Silver Drivers’ Championship.
Josh Smith – British GT – Oulton Park – Quotes
What are your first impressions of racing in British GT?
“My first impressions of British GT is really positive! Really enjoyed the whole weekend and the paddock carries a good atmosphere.
“There is really strong competition throughout the field but I am 100% certain that me and my teammate James can get some really good results this season and challenge for the title.”
Do you approach the race in a different way when you are sharing a car with someone as to if you were racing on your own?
“No, I do not change my approach sharing the car with James. I still keep the same intensity and put my self under the same amount of pressure to perform.
“However, I do bare the thought in mind that I have got to look after the car as James needs as good a car as possible as his result and performance directly affects mine.
What were your expectations heading into the race and did you meet them / exceed them?
“My expectation was to finish in the top 5, however I was aiming for two podiums.
“So when I finished second in race one and only a very small margin off the win it massively exceeded my expectations!
“We were also on for another podium in race two until we had a drive-through penalty that was a massive disappointment, because we could have had two unreal results for our first event.”
Was there a particular part of the races that you enjoyed?
“I really enjoyed taking the start in race 2 and my whole stint as there was some really close racing.
“I was able to really push the car on the better tyres and use my race craft to do some good overtaking!”
What did you learn this weekend that you can carry forward for the rest of the year?
“I learnt that they are very long races and the situation can change very quickly.
“So you have to be patient an look after the car to and make sure you keep out of trouble as other drivers will come into trouble and make mistakes so it is important to be there to pick up the pieces.”
Tolman Motorsport Team Principal, Christopher Tolman
“The podium we achieved with James (Dorlin) and Josh (Smith) was magnificent and I’m so pleased that they did it on their British GT debut. However,
“The pace is obviously there and the boys are learning an awful lot every time they get in the cars.
“Race two didn’t go to plan at all, but that’s motorsport. On the whole, we started with a good finish, fought for more big results, possessed winning pace and the team gelled incredibly well.”