CASTLE COMBE PROVIDES A SCORCHER OF A TCR UK WEEKEND
Temperatures were high all the way through the very first high-profile touring car race meeting in the history of the Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire, as TCR UK and its supporting cast of championships and series descended for an exciting summer weekend of racing – but it indeed wasn’t without its fair share of dramatic moments.
The first TCR UK race on Sunday looked set to crown a brand new race winner, as pole position man Ollie Taylor just about led the entire race from start to finish aboard his Pyro Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR. Championship leader Dan Lloyd suffered a slightly sluggish start in his WestCoast Racing VW Golf GTi TCR, but after a safety car period for a first lap incident at Quarry involving Finlay Crocker, Jessica Backman and Stewart Lines, Lloyd clawed his way back to 2nd place before pressuring Taylor in the last laps. On the final lap of the race, Lloyd made a late lunge into Quarry and tagged the rear of Taylor’s car, forcing him wide and ultimately out of the lead.
Lloyd would race home to the flag and take the win on the road, but a successful protest from Taylor and the Pyro Motorsport team saw the championship leader handed a 1-second penalty for his robust move, pushing him back to 2nd and giving Taylor his first career TCR UK victory. Andreas Backman fought hard to take 3rd place behind them.
The reverse grid second race effectively saw Lloyd pick up his now almost customary place at the head of the field, after taking advantage of the rule that saw the second fastest qualifying times decide the grid. With a slower second best lap than most of the field, Lloyd landed a spot on the front row alongside pole man Carl Swift in his Maximum Motorsport Cupra TCR. Lloyd streaked away in the first half of the race, but another safety car for a sizable incident between Jessica Backman and Lines at Camp Corner closed the pack up again. Getting the jump on Taylor on the restart, Lloyd drove as he always did to pick up his seventh win of the season, with Taylor finishing in 2nd place. Carl Swift had initially lost 3rd place after a penalty for track limits pushed him down the order, but after reviewing in-car footage, the decision was reversed, and Swift was rewarded with his first ever TCR UK podium.
Back on the support bill after their one-off race meetings away from the paddock, both of the permanent TCR UK support championships put on some spectacular racing to compliment the main event. In the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 SuperCup, a new race winner emerged as after earning his first-ever SuperCup pole in qualifying, former BMW Compact Cup champion Steve Roberts battled his way back up the order from a poor opening lap where he dropped to 7th, to sensationally clinch a brilliant first victory. A pass on the penultimate lap on leader James Blake-Baldwin sealed the deal, with JB-B in 2nd place and defending champ Luke Herbert in 3rd. The second race only lasted one complete lap, as a high-speed 3-car incident shortly before Quarry forced a red flag and 30 minutes of barrier repairs before it could be restarted.
When the race did eventually restart after a lengthy delay, pole man Roberts was able to defend from Blake-Baldwin initially, but contact from behind at Tower Bend put Roberts loose and ultimately into the barriers. From there, Blake-Baldwin drove on to take another race victory on the road, but his move only saw him disqualified after the race which promoted Jack Harding into his third race win of the year, with Aidan Hills and Herbert moving up a step on the rostrum. Due to additional delays caused by incidents in other races, the third race was unable to be run in time and thus will look to be run at one of the remaining race weekends ahead this season.
Over in the Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship, the first hat-trick hero of the season emerged as title favourite Niall Murray was able to charge to victory in all three races to further cement his lead in the points, as well as his quest for a second National title. Murray resisted the attention of Jamie Thorburn in Race 1 as the young Scotsman kept him honest throughout, but couldn’t better 2nd place ahead of Michael Eastwell. It was business as usual again in the second race, where his Team Dolan compatriot Matt Round-Garrido took up the role as pursuer after Thorburn tagged a tyre stack on the second lap which broke his left front suspension. Round-Garrido ended up taking P2 behind teammate Murray, while the battle for 3rd place dramatically concluded on the last lap when Eastwell and local favourite Luke Cooper made contact exiting Quarry, leaving Eastwell spinning down the order to finish 6th, while Cooper assumed and therefore claimed 3rd place.
For the final race with a partially reverse grid, Murray once again put in another of his sensational charges through the field to take the lead and complete the triple. This time the Irishman’s primary concern was Eastwell, from whom he had to snatch the lead and then defend all the way to the flag, once again denying him his first National win. Round-Garrido once again had a satisfactory race as he claimed another podium in 3rd.
Some of the most frantic racing from the entire weekend came from the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup on Sunday, where the main event was at the head of the field between main title contenders Steven Dailly, Owen Hunter, Ian Jones and Matthew Parkes. The first race would see Dailly take the win, but both Hunter and Jones ensured he never had a moment’s peace with the three cars running together for the entire race. Hunter and Jones would finish in that order, taking 2nd and 3rd respectively.
The second race was even more breathtaking as Jones and Hunter would battle for the lead before contact at Tower put Jones into the wall and eventually out of the race. Dailly would take over as a result and despite substantial pressure once again from Hunter, who was subsequently disqualified for the contact with Jones, the defending champion held on to complete the double. A charging Matthew Parkes inherited 2nd place with David May being promoted to 3rd as a result.
Their tin-top counterparts in the Teekay Couplings Production GTi Championship also entertained in their respective races the day before on Saturday. James Colbourne converted a dominant pole position into a 4-second victory overall in his Mk5 Golf GTi, forcing both Martyn Walsh and Richard Marsh to trail in behind him, while Tim Hartland once again got the better of both defending Mk2 champion Chris Webb and Dan Gibbs. There was more of the same for Colbourne in the second race as he once again headed Walsh and the rest of the Mk5 contingent to the flag with John Mawdsley picking up 3rd place this time. Hartland and Webb again picked up the top two spots in the Mk2s, with Pete Milne collecting the final podium step.
More drama occurred over in the Toyo Tires Porsche Championship, albeit not so much for title favourite Adam Southgate who extended his points lead with victory in the first race on Saturday from Garry Lawrence and Garry Goodwin in the Race Boxster class, with Gavin Johnson collecting the 924 class honours. But it was Sunday’s first race that saw one of the more memorable moments of the weekend, but for all the wrong reasons. While Southgate, Lawrance and James Coleman collected the Race Boxster silverware and Johnson again was top 924 runner, the race was stopped prematurely for a spectacular incident for Nick Hull at Camp Corner when ABS failure saw him career into the tyres and eventually end up on his roof; thankfully he was able to walk away albeit very shaken. Barrier repairs took place for at least 30 minutes, and a result had to be declared from the red flag.
In their third race, it would be James Coleman who would collect only his second win of the season, despite being hounded by Southgate on several occasion before the points leader spun away his 2nd place at the Esses. Southgate then chased and harried Lawrence for 2nd in the Race Boxsters, but couldn’t find a way past and had to settle for 3rd; Johnson completed his mission of taking all three wins in the 924 class.
Some of the fastest racing of the weekend came from the Speed Group F1000 Championship, who certainly lived up to their title sponsor in a trio of races that were far from processional. After a couple of tricky weekends, Michael Watton got his title defence back on track by taking pole and then the race win in their first race on Saturday, beating Dan Clowes and Alok Iyengar to the top step in the process. The same three men stood on the podium again in Race 2, albeit with Watton this time heading Iyengar as he went one better for 2nd place with Clowes 3rd. Even though there was a partially reversed grid for Race 3, Watton completed his much-coveted hat-trick with Clowes in 2nd place, while rookie Rob Welham had cause to celebrate with a maiden rostrum visit in 3rd. Former champion Lee Morgan also had a reason to be cheerful from a less than satisfactory weekend as he claimed a new championship lap record at Castle Combe, with several cars also managing to lap under the existing time.
Enjoying their first taste of a TCR UK race weekend were the Sports 2000 Championship, with both their Duratec and Pinto racers competing together on one grid on this occasion. Defending champion Tom Stoten ensured he lived up to the #1 on his car by claiming pole despite setting the exact same lap time as David Houghton in qualifying! He then dutifully stole Castle Combe to himself by ending up more than 11 seconds in the lead by the chequered flag in the Duratec class and overall, with Tim Tudor and Dominic Lesniewski completing the podium; Roger Donnan and John Owen also won their respective classes in the rest of the Duratec contingent. Over in the Pinto runners, Paul Streat beat Clive Steeper (Pinto Historic winner) and Richard Cooke to the category win, as Mike Fry also took victory in his class.
As ever with Castle Combe, their local championship also put in a fantastic display for their loyal spectators and fans, who were all enjoying the bright sunshine that bathed the entire circuit. The Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship had a familiar name at the front as local favourite Luke Cooper maintained his near perfect record with pole and a race win over Josh Fisher and David Vivian. The Castle Combe GT Championship race was a wonderful mix of variety as Barry Squibb took his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX to a comfortable race win from the Mazda RX-7 of Steve Putt and the Caterham R300 of Tony Bennett. A large field of over 30 cars took to the grid for Sunday’s Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship race, where Gary Prebble hunted down the leaders and eventually passed them to take the win in his SEAT Leon Cupra ahead of Simon Thornton-Norris in his Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart and Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird in the pole-sitting Nissan 200SX.
You can find the full breakdown of the results from the weekend here – CASTLE COMBE TCR UK RESULTS.