OULTON PARK SET FOR TCR UK TIN-TOP EXTRAVAGANZA
Here’s a question for you – have you ever seen a touring car meeting take place all on one single day of competition? If the answer’s no, and we’re guessing that might be for most of you, then that’s all about to change! The next instalment of the inaugural season of the new TCR UK Touring Car Championship makes its way to the picturesque Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire for its 5th meeting of the season. It also brings with it an exciting selection of support championships, all of which are guaranteed to entertain.
In the battle for the inaugural TCR UK title, runaway points leader Dan Lloyd remains the runaway favourite in the WestCoast Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR. From 8 races, he’s won all but one, as Pyro Motorsport’s Ollie Taylor was able to run at the front for almost the entire of Race 1 at Castle Combe, before a controversial move at Quarry corner from Lloyd on the last lap saw him finish 2nd on the road, but handed the win after the race thanks to a 1 second penalty to Lloyd. Both will undoubtedly be in contention for the win, while other drivers to watch down the order include Lewis Kent, the Backman siblings Andreas and Jessica, Finlay Crocker and the Maximum Motorsport trio – Carl Swift and Stewart Lines are joined today by TCR debutant Tim Docker as he pilots his new VW Golf GTi TCR for the first time this season after successful tests. Oulton Park’s twists and turns should really help both races put on a sensational show.
As always, the Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship comes back out to play to a stomping ground usually reserved for their Northern counterparts. As he did in 2016, championship leader Niall Murray is thoroughly stamping his authority on the rest of the field and a superb hat-trick at Castle Combe last time out only went further to solidify that fact. Oulton will be his next test, and he will have to once again fend off the attentions of Michael Eastwell, Luke Cooper, Jamie Thorburn, teammate Matt Round-Garrido and Joey Foster amongst others if he wants to remain top of the table. Oulton Park produced some truly dramatic races here last season and with every Pro Class driver aiming for that coveted entry ticket for the Mazda Road To Indy USF2000 Scholarship Shootout, the racing should be nothing less than spectacular.
It also remains close and somewhat dramatic in the Mazda MX-5 SuperCup, and the battle for the title has changed significantly. Luke Herbert and Jack Harding are still firmly in contention at the top of the table, but James Blake-Baldwin now has his work cut out for the rest of the year thanks to a disqualification at Castle Combe due to causing an incident with then race leader Steve Roberts. He’s dropped to 6th and will have to battle hard from here on in, but the likes of Aidan Hills, Jonathan Greensmith, Carl Garnett, Colin Bysouth and more, along with Herbert and Harding, won’t make it easy for him to claw back the points he needs to get back into contention come the end of the season.
There’s also a battle brewing in the Milltek Sport Volkswagen Racing Cup, as points leader Chris Panayiotou is merely eight points ahead of Jamie Bond, while Toby Davis and Matthew Wilson aren’t too far behind and are separated by just two points themselves. This championship predominantly accommodates a plethora of VW Golfs and Sciroccos plus a couple of Audi TT Cup racers as they battle for victory on track, with top teams such as Team HARD and Maximum Motorsport fielding several cars with an array of talented drivers. Expect names such as Martin Depper, Ethan Hammerton, Tom Witts and Ruaridh to be in the mix, plus former Mazda MX-5 racer Darron Lewis makes an appearance for the first time this season as well.
Adding further to the touring car flavour of proceedings will be the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup, with a positively bumper entry on this occasion. More than 30 cars are due to take the start of both races, as the championship battle continues to hot up at the head of the field. Defending the #1 this season, Steven Dailly has had to resist constant pressure from Owen Hunter, Ian Jones and Matthew Parkes in his quest to double up on titles. Hunter came excruciatingly close to usurping Dailly last time out at Castle Combe, but in the end Steven did the double to maintain his championship lead. Amongst the massive field of cars, you should also keep an eye on Sam Carrington Yates, Gordon Macmillan and Mark Skeats amongst others, as they will be ready to pounce if any of the cars around them slip up.
Saturday’s timetable is packed with fantastic racing from a great array of championships and Oulton Park’s International layout is a challenge in itself. It’s relatively high speed with fast, flowing corners and many elevation changes. Whether or not the recent warm weather will also play a factor remains to be seen, but as TCR UK continues to build its foundations through its debut season, its next chapter of 2018 gets set to be written this weekend.