BRSCC & TCR UK PROVIDE AN EASTER SNETTERTON SPECTACULAR!
The BRSCC and TCR UK kicked off their first season back together for 2023 with a mega Easter weekend of racing to remember, as exceptional racing and an incredible atmosphere permeated the Snetterton 300 circuit in Norfolk across both days. Both the headline act and all of the support series provided big entertainment in their own way and have certainly set the stage for fascinating seasons in each.
TCR UK TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
With a 24-strong line up for the opening rounds of TCR UK in 2023, a lot was expected and anticipated from the new season with new cars, new teams and new drivers to make the most competitive and exciting campaign since the championship began in 2018. With plenty of spectators around the circuit and attending the grid walk to help set the scene over the weekend, the fun began before racing had even started during qualifying.
Bradley Kent originally captured pole position from the session before he was disqualified on a technicality a couple of hours later, leaving the Essex and Kent driver to start Race 1 in his Hyundai Veloster from the back of the grid with a ten second hold. Josh Files inherited pole in the Area Motorsport Hyundai Elantra alongside teammate Bruce Winfield, while defending champion Chris Smiley put the brand new Honda Civic FL5 TCR on P4 for its world competition debut.
Winfield fired himself into the lead from the start as he and Adam Shepherd demoted pole man Files to 3rd by the second corner, and as Bruce managed to extend an early gap out in front it left Files to chase Shepherd for 2nd until Adam’s Hyundai lost pace and dropped back on Lap 5, allowing Josh to take over. It wasn’t long before Files’ Elantra was on the tail of Winfield’s i30 and the two teammates circulated together for the remainder of the race, Files seemingly happy to play rear gunner to help his full season teammate. The order stayed unchanged until the chequered flag as Winfield took an emotional first win of the season, dedicating it to his father whom he sadly lost over the winter. Files took a strong 2nd on his first TCR UK start, while Chris Smiley slipped past Lewis Brown late in the race to give the new FL5 Civic a superb 3rd place on its debut.
The top ten was reversed putting Alistair Camp on pole alongside Brad Hutchinson, and it was Hutchinson who stole the lead into Riches while behind a slide on dirt and cold tyres left Smiley in the barriers and going no further with splitter damage. After a brief one-lap safety car, Hutchinson immediately came under pressure from Files and Joe Marshall and what followed was two laps of absolutely sensational touring car racing. Marshall made a phenomenal move on Files around the outside of Coram to take 2nd, setting off a frenzied battle pack over the next few corners, before Marshall caught Hutchinson. However, an attempted pass into Brundle/Nelson left Marshall’s Audi sliding off the road, before Files performed his own classy outside move heading into Murrays to pinch the lead himself.
Lewis Brown wasn’t far behind in following Files through and over the next few laps Lewis chipped away at the lead gap, but heading into the final minutes the dynamic of the lead battle changed dramatically when Brown rapidly caught Files without warning. Moments later, the engine on Files’ Hyundai expired spectacularly to cruelly deny him a first win and handing the lead over the Brown who drove steady to the flag and his first TCR win on his first proper weekend in the championship. Hyundai fans still had reasons to be cheerful as Alex Ley and Race 1 winner Winfield completed the podium behind the race-winning CUPRA of Brown.
MILLTEK SPORT CIVIC CUP
Providing just as much entertainment as the headline act, the Milltek Sport Civic Cup was back with the BRSCC too for 2023 as TCR UK’s main support championship. With bolstered grids featuring some 30 drivers for the opening rounds of the year and a slim lining back to just one single class, there was a lot to live up to after the mind-bending final race of their 2022 season that saw Matt Luff crowned champion despite a dramatic final few minutes.
Dan Thackeray collected pole in qualifying ahead of Morgan Bailey and Jack Harding and this trio held the lead spots along with Will Redford in the early stages, but it was Bailey that took P1 throughout the opening lap tried to pull away initially. However, an apparent recurrence of a gearbox issue from qualifying forced Bailey to capitulate and drop backwards on Lap 3, handing the lead back to Thackeray followed by Redford and the fast-starting Louie Capozzoli. This would remain the status quo all the way to the flag, as Thackeray captured the first Civic Cup win of the year while Redford grabbed a strong P2 and Capozzoli was rewarded with a debut podium with P3.
Come Sunday’s race, the weather was brighter and Dan Macdonald found himself on the top 10 reverse grid pole alongside Sam Nicolaou, but after an energetic opening few corners it was Danny Hobson having to fend off Max Edmundson before the first lap was completed. Edmundson dived into the lead at Wilson hairpin moments later and for a while managed to go unchallenged as Redford, Hobson and Harding squabbled over 2nd. Redford didn’t take long to arrive on Edmundson’s tail with Harding for company too, the latter moving up past the Pro Alloys driver to chase after the lead.
Making his attempt on the final lap, Harding tried first at Riches, before setting Edmundson up down Bentley Straight by moving alongside, but as they turned into Brundle with Harding’s car almost entirely in front, Edmundson chose to bail out and charged across the grass which dubiously kept him in the lead all the way the flag. On the road, Edmundson was declared the winner from Harding and Redford, but post race he was given a time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage, promoting Harding to take his first Civic Cup win at long last.
BRSCC FIESTA JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
Much had already been said about the rude health in which the BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship was in heading into the 2023 season, and at the first rounds at Snetterton this was fully justified. With its best registration numbers ever, this past weekend did indeed see the biggest grid the championship had ever enjoyed with 22 cars lined up to begin the new campaign, four more than the previous record and the first time it had ever broken into the 20s. This weekend’s particular entry included no less than 14 drivers eligible for the Rookie Cup honours.
However, from qualifying it was a name that had been up top at the end of 2022 that was making his presence known again – Luke Hilton qualified over four tenths clear of Sam Neser, with JamSport Scholarship winner Maks Solarski setting 3rd best time ahead of Ben Mulryan in 4th and best of the newer Mk7 next-gen cars.
For the most part, Race 1 on Sunday seemed like a relatively straightforward run for Hilton, as he took the lead from pole position and was never headed until the flag. However, late in the race Luke was given a five-second time penalty for track limits, leaving him vulnerable to losing the win to 2nd placed Solarski, who had to battle up to P2 after losing a couple of places early on. Heading into the final lap, Solarski was shown as only just ahead, leaving Hilton to sweat it out over the last tour of the 300 circuit. Thankfully for Luke, his pace was enough to remain victorious, but due to the penalty he only registered just 0.133 seconds ahead to pick up the first win of the season, with Solarski in P2 and Neser collecting 3rd. Mulryan was P4 and top Mk7 driver, ahead of Daniel Lewis and Jacob Hodgkiss.
The second race ended up with two safety cars after incidents in the opening laps of both the main start and the first safety car restart. At Wilson hairpin, Micallef tagged Hilton into a spin, leaving Solarski nowhere to go but to make contact, putting Maks out on the spot while Luke continued on to eventually be classified 16th. On the restart, incidents for George Foxlow, Hodgkiss and Billy Blockley saw another SC appearance, with the race eventually stopped before time ran out. Micallef was declared the winner from Neser and Mulryan, the latter picking up the first Mk7 overall podium finish in the process, as he respectively headed up Lewis and Harry England in the newer cars.
Croft now beckons for the Juniors to see if they can put on a great show for the North Yorkshire spectators!
AIRTEC MOTORSPORT FIESTA ST240 CHAMPIONSHIP
Now running on its own in the championship as a single class, the AIRTEC Motorsport Fiesta ST240 Championship was the perfect complement to the TCR UK race weekend, providing even more exceptional tintop action for all to enjoy. Plenty of familiar names were back on the grid for 2023 along with some new ones to tackle these fast Fiestas and from the get-go, the racing was intense.
Zachary Lucas took a commanding pole for Race 1 but was beaten to the first corner by front-row mate Simon Horrobin, only for a few corners before Lucas squeezed back through heading onto the back straight. Both Lucas and Horrobin ran P1 and P2 for the remainder of the race and it wasn’t long before Alastair Kellett joined them after picking his way past Joseph Knight for 3rd. Kellett did everything he could to displace Horrobin and even gave him a lovetap or two in his efforts, but Horrobin’s experience helped him plant the #11 car in all the right places to deny Kellett the move. Lucas picked up where he left off in 2022 with victory in the first race in Pro class, followed by Horrobin and Kellett just tenths apart, while Caitlin May was the first Club class winner ahead of Morgan Kidd and Connor Blackburn.
With the same front row as Race 1, Lucas made sure to hold the lead and immediately sprinted up the road from the rest of the pack before the runyourfleet.com Safety Car bunched the pack after Caitlin May’s car retired after damage suffered from contact at the Wilson hairpin. A super restart gave Lucas an even bigger lead gap and from there he was never caught, charging to another impressive race win by over six seconds to extend his win streak to five in a row. He left Horrobin, Kellett and John Cooper to argue over the podium, and after more consistent pressure Kellett finally squeezed past Horrobin late in the race to grab 2nd place. Blackburn took the Club honours, meanwhile, ahead of Kidd and Sean Reynolds this time.
For the third race on Sunday, the partially reversed grid allowed John Cooper to beat Gary Miller off the line and to the first corner as Kellett burst forward to leap into 2nd in a matter of seconds, immediately pressuring Cooper with Matt Luff on his tail too. The lead group quickly grew and grew over the next couple of laps with several cars bunched together and creating a superb spectacle as the head of the pack as positions swapped back and forth constantly. Through it all, Cooper continued to hold firm with Kellett pushing the pair away from the rest, eventually making the pass at Wilson to take the lead. Kellett then drove off to complete a hat-trick of standing on all three steps of the podium with a win in the final race, but behind it was a bunfight for 2nd.
Cooper had to check up at Wilson hairpin after being narrowly avoided by an out-of-control Knight, and after letting Spencer Stevenson through to 2nd he ended up backing up the rest of the chasing pack together, eventually ending up four abreast into Oggies and then turned around by Webster entering the Bentley Straight. This allowed Gary Miller to take his first ST240 podium through it all, while Morgan Kidd picked up her first Club class win further back from Blackburn and Marco Ricci.
VINYL DETAIL FIESTA ST150 CHALLENGE
Sharing a grid for their opening races of the 2023 season with the ST240s, the newly revamped Vinyl Detail Fiesta ST150 Challenge was looking forward to getting off the mark with three superb races at Snetterton. Many drivers from 2022 were back to try and get the title away from Michael Blackburn after his triumph last season and with drivers who also had previous ST150 title success over in what was the BRSCC Fiesta Championship, there was an additional element of the unknown.
With Ethan Rogers claiming the first pole of the year in qualifying and Blackburn alongside, both drivers would end up three wide with Matt Pimlott heading into Agostini on the opening lap, Pimlott managing to pass Blackburn before chasing after Rogers. Behind them, Sam Watkins was also making moves as he took Sam Beckett for 4th, then Blackburn a couple of laps later, and by the end of Lap 5 he was in to 2nd place behind Rogers. From here, the two cars had the rest of the race in their command and Rogers remained unchallenged until the chequered flag to pick up the first win of the season. Watkins was second on road but was disqualified post-race on a technicality, promoting Pimlott to 2nd and new boy Thomas Ikin to 3rd.
Ikin got the jump on Rogers and Pimlott beginning Race 2 later in the day to lead through the first few corners, further helped by the early safety car just moments later. Rogers put the pressure on straight away after the restart, and it only took him two laps to find a way past the former British F4 racer and slowly but surely begin to edge away, eventually taking the chequered flag once again by a fraction under two seconds from Ikin, who finished one better than earlier with P2 while Pimlott again took another podium finish with 3rd place.
The reverse grid draw put Paul Dobson alongside Mark Blunt with Rogers and Ikin back on the forth row, and it was Dobson who took advantage from the beginning to lead the pack from the outset. However, it was Pimlott who led by the conclusion of Lap 1 from Dobson and Blunt, before 2nd and 3rd swapped places and Blunt set off to catch the leader ahead. He began a race-long chase over the next ten minutes or so, getting closer and closer each lap until Mark was right on Pimlott’s tail by the flag, but he couldn’t deny the #24 the win in the end but did settle for his best result to date. As for 3rd, Daniel Robinson allowed all others behind to squabble between each other, helping him earn an excellent 3rd place from the opening weekend.
NANKANG TYRE CITYCAR CUP & STUDENT MOTORSPORT CHALLENGE
The Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup began its third season at Snetterton and its second tied in with the Student Motorsport Challenge for exciting college and university teams to battle it out on track together within the main championship. Many of 2022’s front runners were back to see if they could claim the #1 from Richard Bliss, who chose to sit the opening rounds from the sidelines and provide Andrew Dyer with his car instead.
Elliot Lettis scored a dominant pole position by more than eight tenths, proving he had incredible pace to give in the first of the weekend’s three races. He did battle with Stuart Bliss right from the start of Race 1 and was able to see him off after running side-by-side in the first couple of corners. Immediately they were both joined by Bliss’ teammate Dyer and Richard Jepp of the Northbrook College team as the leading SMC car from the outset, but fastest laps from Lettis helped him create a gap to the trio behind and remain unchallenged, helped by the Autobliss teammates dicing over 2nd on the last lap too. Lettis picked up win #1 of 2023 with relative ease, leaving Bliss to take 2nd and Dyer to take 3rd.
Bliss got the better of Lettis when Race 2 got underway and beat him in the sprint to Riches to lead the pack and initially, it looked as though he would do the same as Lettis had the day before and run away with victory from the outset. Lettis, though, wasn’t interested in watching the Toyota in front pull a gap and quickly latched into the tow and almost breezed past Bliss beginning lap 3 to once again lead. From here, it was a copy of Saturday’s result with Lettis doubling up on wins with Bliss on his tail in P2 and Dyer seeing off a race-long scrap with Jepp to complete the podium.
The random partially reversed grid gave Bliss his best chance to win with a front row start alongside pole man Christopher Mackenzie, as he managed to pick up the lead from Riches and attempted to scamper away. But while Mackenzie kept close, Lettis quickly worked up to 3rd by the end of Lap 1 and wasted no time in chasing after the top two ahead of him. He was 2nd past Mackenzie before half distance, but by the time he was through Bliss already had over a second’s margin in front to try and eat into. Try he did, and after pumping in fastest laps he was on Bliss’ tail making a challenge but try and he might, Stuart had enough to hold the double race winner back and collected his first win of 2023, albeit only just by less than two tenths. Dyer completed a worthwhile weekend with more silverware in 3rd.
As for the Student Motorsport Challenge, Richard Jepp managed to dominate the contest all weekend with three excellently executed wins, while Ben Creanor gave his new team West Suffolk College a trio of 2nd places and 3rds were shared between Duncan Horlor for Barracksport and Jack Wheeler for East Surrey College.
MODIFIED FORD SERIES
After they put on a show at their opening race of the season on the Silverstone GP circuit a few weeks ago in mixed conditions, the Modified Ford Series headed into Snetterton with another entry full of a fascinating variety of Ford models on the grid. Thankfully, weather conditions were consistently dry allowing the higher horsepower cars to really stretch their legs on Snetterton’s long straights.
James Allen’s pole position lasted all of a couple of hundred metres when cold tyres heading into Riches saw him facing backwards and then collected on the right rear, while other cars around him also got caught up in resulting incidents, forcing a red flag and a restart after a lengthy clear up. Stephen Scott-Dunwoodie was unchallenged on the second start as Dave Matthias did his best in his Sierra Sapphire to keep with the RS500 in front of him and Neil Jessop’s Zakspeed Escort also giving chase. Jessop was quicky passed by Josh Payton’s Mk2 Cortina. Even through lapped traffic, there was no change in the top three and it remained this way for the duration with Dunwoodie claiming the overall win, Matthias holding 2nd place and Payton taking 3rd.
Race 2 looked as though it would play out as more of the same for the top three, but one driver looking to make an impact after a tough first encounter was Jack Gadd in his Mk1 Escort RSR. He managed to catch Dunwoodie in just a couple of laps, but as he came up to mount an attack at Riches corner, Gadd spun away 2nd place. He quickly recovered back to 4th, but a mechanical issue forced him into the pits just before the end, moments before race leader Dunwoodie’s engine expired on the RS500 from the lead too. This promoted Matthias up to P1 and the race win from Payton in P2, but on the final run to the chequered flag Lloyd Jamieson was only just denied a podium by a hard-charging James Allen, who powered his Focus through the pack to steal 3rd at the death from Jamieson’s Escort Maxi Cosworth.
BRSCC SUPERSPORT ENDURANCE CUP
Having completed three pilot races, refined the regulations and taken on plenty of competitor feedback, the BRSCC’s new SuperSport Endurance Cup championship burst into life with a healthy entry of over 30 cars in the line up, plenty of new faces joining a BRSCC grid for the first time and two hours of intriguing endurance racing on the clock with pit stops, driver changes, refuelling and battles between six classes all set to provide some fascinating action around the Snetterton circuit.
A rather energetic first lap included a spin for the Honda Civic of Ricky Coomber at Palmers and the Sapra/ Bransom BMW charging across the grass at Coram after it had initially scythed down the inside of everyone into the first corner, but through it all Julian McBride’s BMW M3 led the way with the Hayes/Read SEAT in 2nd place and the pole-sitting McConomy/ Horsten BMW 1 Series giving chase, as the trio quickly made a break for it. McBride felt the pressure from the SEAT behind over the first few laps, but the M3 had enough to slowly edge away out in front by a couple of seconds as the pit window loomed into view.
After just 25 minutes, merely moments into the opening of the pit window, the runyourfleet.com Safety Car was called after the VW Golf of Alford/ Lloyd-Jones came to a halt at Oggies, causing most of the field to dive into pit lane to make the first of their two mandatory stops. Many of the leaders chose to pit, but the Hayes/ Read SEAT stayed out to lead on the restart but then pit before the first lap back racing was complete, while the Vauxhall VX220 of Simon Mauger overtook the BMW M3 of Luke and Paul Browes to lead the cars that had made a first stop.
The Sapra/ Bransom M3 took its turn in the lead extending a gap of more than 30 seconds out in front, while Mauger’s VX220 pitted with mechanical issues forcing it to retire shortly before half distance. When the leading BMW pitted, Lee Collins’ Caterham took over briefly before making a stop too, followed by the Browes pair in their M3 GTR a couple of laps later. This put McBride back into the lead which he would hold for a lengthy period of time but still needed to make one more mandatory stop. This was helped by another safety car for a parked Lotus, giving him a sizeable advantage once racing got underway.
McBride was closed down in the final 19 minutes after the restart by Bart Horsten in the 1 Series, but while on track Bart’s efforts weren’t enough to catch him it would be a time penalty for a pit stop infringement that demoted McBride to 2nd place overall, leaving Horsten and Keir McConomy to pick up the overall and Pro-A win. Mcbride was still Pro-B victor ahead of the Browes pair who took their M3 GTR to 3rd overall, while other class wins were taken by the Lotus of Radestock/ Carr in Pro-C, the BMW Compact of Paul Hinson in Clubman-A the Mazda MX-5 of Robinson/ Amos in Clubman-B and another BMW Compact of Read/ Drinkwater in Clubman-C.