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    Vauxhall’s Gavin Smith showed his true credentials at Brands Hatch two weeks ago, racing through the pain barrier after a heavy shunt in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship left him with two broken ribs.

    The injury puts the 29-year-old Dubliner in doubt for this weekend’s racing at Silverstone – the last of the season – but Smith is determined to take part if at all possible.

    “I’ve been to a physio and had ultrasound,” said Smith, who sustained the injury in round 26 after slamming into the pitlane wall at 78kph. “I’m going to the warm up on Saturday to see if I can drive the car. I feel a lot better and I believe that in these cases with footballers they can give you an injection that helps so I might look into that. It would be a massive disappointment not to race but I’ve got to think of my health.”

    Smith chose to take part in the third race at Brands Hatch and, amazingly, finished 10th from last on the grid despite his injury. The achievement, however, was somewhat eclipsed by Fabrizio Giovanardi scoring his second win for the Luton-based manufacturer in as many rounds. The two-times European Touring Car Champion now sees no reason why he should not continue this resurgence at Silverstone on Sunday.

    “I raced here last year with the World Touring Cars although it was on the long circuit,” said Giovanardi. “I remember it was a really exciting circuit to race on but the smaller version, which the BTCC will compete on, looks a bit easier because it only has three corners. Our car is normally fastest in a straight line and Silverstone has two really fast sections so we should do well.”

    Tom Chilton trails Giovanardi by 30 points – making it almost impossible for him to catch his more experienced team-mate. His goal now is to stay ahead of those behind him. “I treat this year as a learning curve,” said the 21-year-old, who holds the record for being the youngest BTCC race winner. “You have to learn how to set your car up for yourself because three drivers have three different driving styles. There are some fundamental things that you just have to run – the basic stuff – but the fine tuning is down to the driver. I feel every change and I think that’s the difference between me and most drivers.

    “There has been a lot of bad luck this year but I think it makes us stronger. I feel now, for the first time in the year, the team respects me and I respect them. That relationship doesn’t just happen even if your name is Michael Schumacher. You need to prove yourself and I’ve done that this season. It's just a shame that now we’ve got somewhere with the car we’ve got to end the year.”

    The final three BTCC races of the 2006 season will be held at Silverstone this Sunday, the first starting at 10:20. Qualifying starts at 15.25 on Saturday.