After a stellar opening event at Snetterton last month, the TCR UK Touring Car Championship returns for Rounds 3 & 4 of the 2023 season at Croft Circuit for a bank holiday weekend bonanza. Racing takes place on Sunday (7 May) at the challenging North Yorkshire circuit.
It is four years since TCR UK visited Croft when champion-to-be Lewis Kent took his maiden victories. Will history repeat itself with another first-time winner this weekend? With such a competitive grid, packed with potential winners, it’s certainly possible.
Heading into the event as championship leader is Area Motorsport’s Bruce Winfield. An emotional win, backed up a podium in the reversed-grid race, leaves the Hyundai i30 N TCR driver with a healthy early-season advantage over team-mate Alex Ley. Now he has to overcome the challenge of carrying 40kg of compensation weight around Croft as a result.
While Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Driver Ley currently sits third in the standings, some 14 points behind Winfield, he is effectively his closest challenger after Snetterton race two winner Lewis Brown’s graduation to TCR Europe. Fifth and second in Norfolk, and now running 10kg lighter than Winfield, Ley will aim to return to winning ways at Croft, a circuit he went well at in his Fiesta Junior days.
With Adam Shepherd facing a budget shortfall and Josh Files’s Snetterton appearance intended to be a one-off, Area Motorsport’s team of i30 Ns is completed by Andy Wilmot. The one-time Volkswagen Racing Cup champion and former British Touring Car driver returns to TCR UK after missing this year’s opening round. As the reigning Goodyear Diamond Award champion – for drivers aged 40 or over – Wilmot will be looking to make up lost ground.
Carl Boardley currently leads the Goodyear Diamond Award standings, and sits fourth overall in the points, after a classy performance that yielded two top-six finishes at Snetterton. With plenty of touring car experience at Croft to draw on, Boardley could be an overall podium threat in his CUPRA Leon Competition TCR, especially with no compensation weight to carry.
Reigning champion Chris Smiley got his title defence off to a good start, taking third place in the season opener in his brand new Honda Civic Type R FL5. But the Restart Racing driver got caught out early on in race two, dropping him to eighth in the standings. Smiley was a podium finisher at Croft in his BTCC days so it’s a circuit he has a liking for. But his Snetterton pace will leave him lugging 30kg compensation weight this weekend. Team-mate Scott Sumpton, meanwhile, will look to build on an encouraging first showing in his older FK7 Civic.
Essex & Kent Motorsport’s Bradley Kent was the fastest qualifier at Snetterton, only for a technical infringement to send his Hyundai Veloster N TCR to the back of the grid. Working his way through to fourth in race two, and being the second-fastest car on track, demonstrated what could have been. Kent will now be looking forward with the aim of emulating his elder brother’s 2019 successes.
Another team looking to bounce back from a frustrating season-opener in Norfolk is Rob Boston Racing duo Joe Marshall and Jac Constable in their much-fancied Audi RS3 LMS Gen II machinery. Having been hampered by damper problems, Marshall then spun when challenging for the lead in race two. Constable, meanwhile, was hit with fuel pump and driveshaft failures and currently has a negative score after picking up some penalty points.
Teenager Jenson Brickley impressed on his TCR debut weekend, recording two eighth-place finishes in his Cupra Leon which leaves him ninth in the early standings. With the experience of Mark Hunt in his corner, the East Midlander will be aiming to make light of 30kg compensation weight and take another step forward this weekend. Taking the fight to the likes of Boardley and Marshall in the Tom Walker Memorial Trophy – for TCR UK rookies and those without a previous podium finish – will also be a target.
Struggling with straight-line speed in his older-generation Audi RS3 LMS, Bond It with MPHR’s Brad Hutchison put in a terrific rear-guard effort from his reversed-grid front-row start at Snetterton before slipping down the order. Another gritty performance should be on the cards at Croft.
Also targeting a cleaner weekend after battling adversity last time out is Callum Newsham. Despite a brief fire in testing, Newsham qualified seventh fastest on his first race weekend in a Hyundai i30 N, run by new team JH Racing. Gearbox failure forced Newsham to retire from the first race, but the team did a great job to get him back out later in the afternoon and he rewarded them with a climb to 11th from the back of the grid. His pace last time comes with the penalty of having to bolt 30kg of ballast into his Hyundai’s passenger footwell.
TCR UK’s first to North Yorkshire since 2019 kicks off with free practice at 1115hrs on Saturday 6 May, with qualifying scheduled for 1455hrs that afternoon. The two races will be the feature events of the weekend and take place on Sunday (7 May). Preceded by the massively popular public grid walk at 11:40hrs, race one will begin at 12:05hrs, with the reversed-grid finale set to begin at 17:35hrs.
Qualifying and both races will be streamed live and can be accessed via TCR UK’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/@tcrukseries
To find out more about the TCR UK Touring Car Championship visit https://www.tcr-uk.co.uk/ for more info and how to get involved.