TCR UK Touring Car Championship – Rounds 10 & 11
Silverstone National – 19th & 20th August 2023
After two dramatic TCR UK Touring Car races at the home of British motorsport, it was Carl Boardley who had the most to smile about. The CUPRA driver has extended his lead at the top of the points standings with only two race weekends remaining this season.
Boardley won the first race in style before Alex Ley bounced back from a difficult opener to take the second. There was a maiden podium finish for Matthew Wilson, while two more of the championship’s young guns also stepped up to shine.
An incredibly tight qualifying session around Silverstone’s 1.64-mile National circuit ended with the top 10 drivers covered by barely more than a quarter of a second.
It was Area Motorsport’s Adam Shepherd who put his Hyundai i30 N on pole position despite carrying 30kg of compensation weight. Even more impressive was that Shepherd had barely had any free practice running after a rear-hub failure. Having discovered issues with his car’s intercooler and exhaust since last month’s round at Knockhill, Shepherd was able to access its full potential.
Joining his team-mate on the front row of the grid would be Bruce Winfield, who was just 0.022s slower. Running 30kg lighter than Shepherd, Winfield was disappointed with himself, knowing there was more speed in his car after making mistakes on a couple of quicker laps.
Restart Racing youngster Scott Sumpton was delighted to qualify third fastest, his best performance to date. With his car set up perfectly, Sumpton delivered a time only 0.057s shy of pole position.
Heading into the session, Boardley was confident of securing a second consecutive pole position for his CBM with Hart GT CUPRA Leon Competición after excellent pace on old tyres in practice – despite carrying maximum compensation weight. But with fresh rubber bolted on, Boardley was suddenly experiencing a heavy vibration, so bad he found it difficult to see. In the circumstances, going fourth fastest – within a tenth of pole – was a strong performance.
Row three of the grid would comprise a pair of Gen II Audi RS3 LMSs. Like Sumpton, Oliver Cottam was another teenager to shine in his Paul Sheard Racing example as he went fifth fastest ahead of Joe Marshall’s Rob Boston Racing version. Marshall reckoned pole could have been within reach but for suffering fuel surge as he exited the final corner.
Seventh fastest, Jenson Brickley was another who felt a better position should have been possible after a fuel-pressure problem meant his Jenson Brickley Racing CUPRA didn’t get out in time for a final run. Making his return to the championship in the ex-Dan Kirby CUPRA, now run by Rob Boston Racing, Andy Wilmot impressed with eighth-fastest time.
The top 10 was rounded out by TCR UK’s two Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Drivers, Area Motorsport’s Alex Ley (i30 N) and Essex & Kent Motorsport driver Bradley Kent (Veloster N). Ley was frustrated to have not strung together his best sector times.
Round 10 – Race Report
Sunday afternoon’s opening race was preceded by the ever-popular public grid walk on the hallowed Silverstone track. As ever, championship promoter Stewart Lines had ensured the sun was shining as fans enjoyed the opportunity to mingle among the teams, drivers and cars before the busy grid blasted into action.
When the racing got underway, Shepherd made a good start to convert pole into the race lead. But Winfield was slower away on the dirtier inside line, allowing Sumpton and Boardley ahead.
With his vibration cured after it was traced to slightly buckled wheel rims, Boardley was intent on taking his fourth win in five races. He dived inside Sumpton to secure second in front of the BRDC grandstand at Brooklands. Next in Boardley’s sights was the rejuvenated Shepherd, who was revelling in his car’s improved straight-line performance after its overhaul.
Boardley didn’t want to push too hard too soon and leave himself struggling for tyres and brakes in the latter stages of the race. But Shepherd’s pace was strong regardless, and the margin hovered at around 0.5-0.6s until mid-way through the 25-minute race.
Whether Boardley would have found a way past the Hyundai, we’ll never know, as Shepherd suddenly slowed to retire. An alternator bearing had failed and cut all of the car’s electronics, leaving Shepherd literally powerless. It was a devastating blow for the talented driver who is still seeking his first win of the season.
By that stage, Winfield had already retired. Running a comfortable third, he suffered an upright failure that forced him out. What had been looking like a terrific race for Rob Baker’s Area team had suddenly turned bleak within a few laps – as Ley’s strategy of saving his new tyres for later in the day meant he was struggling to make progress too.
So Boardley inherited the lead ahead of a monumental scrap for what had now become second position. Both Sumpton and Cottam were holding their own before getting shuffled back, Cottam suffering a couple of brief gravelly excursions.
Brickley’s exchange with Sumpton allowed both Kent and Marshall to get past into what became second and third. The pair were putting on a terrific race, seemingly running side by side more often than not.
Eventually, Brickley took advantage of the squabble to demote both and reclaim second but it was too late to close down Boardley who took his fourth win in only his 10th race in the championship.
Marshall was third, with his team-mate Jac Constable – who had been struggling to find the set-up sweet-spot – also squeezing past Kent. Sadly, the Veloster driver ended up with nothing to show for his efforts after a puncture pitched him off at Copse.
That let Cottam secure a career-best fifth. Reigning champion Chris Smiley dragged his reluctant FL5 Civic to sixth, a decent reward for his Restart team’s late night as they implemented radical changes, particularly to the dampers, in an attempt to cure the new car’s current woes.
Callum Newsham (JH Racing Hyundai) was seventh ahead of Brad Hutchison (Bond It with MPH Audi RS3 LMS) and Sumpton, who would have been fifth but for a 5s track-limits penalty.
Ley was hit with a similar censure. That was a crucial blow as it dropped him from eighth to 11th – outside the top 10 that would be reversed to form the grid for the second race. Matthew Wilson (JWB Motorsport CUPRA) inherited the all-important 10th position.
Round 11 – Race Report
Scott Sumpton made light of the dirtier line to jump polesitter Wilson and claim the lead of the weekend finale.
But the race didn’t last long before it was neutralised after an accident halfway around the first lap. The concertina under braking into Becketts put Hutchison slightly wide, with Newsham getting inside the Bond-It Audi and Smiley seizing the opportunity to get underneath both. Three-wide entering the Wellington Straight didn’t work and Hutchison got tipped across the front of Newsham’s Hyundai, tagging Smiley’s Honda in turn. Smiley was fired off into the barrier at high speed with Newsham also out on the spot.
After a couple of laps behind the safety car, red flags came out to allow for barrier repairs and a full clean-up.
The safety car laps meant that the restart could be gridded in race order, rather than reverting to the original grid, with the remaining distance shortened to 15 minutes.
Those early skirmishes had significantly shuffled the order. Behind Sumpton and Wilson, Ley was the chief beneficiary, climbing from 11th to third! Cottam, Marshall, Hutchison and Brickley were next, ahead of Constable, who could have done without the stoppage having lost his clutch after the first start. That meant he had to take the restart from the pits, getting dropped off the jacks with his wheels already turning.
Sumpton again got a good getaway to lead, while Ley got past Wilson at Becketts to take second. Just behind them, Marshall had a big spin on cold rear tyres, not helped by suspected brake master-cylinder failure.
Ley was keen to make the most of his fresher rubber and dived inside Sumpton at Brooklands. As Sumpton attempted to close the door, the resulting contact pushed him down to the bottom of the top 10.
So Ley led from Wilson and Cottam, who took second with a move at Copse a couple of laps later.
Behind the top three, battles were raging. Kent was the fastest man on track as he worked his way up the order. As Brickley defended from the rampaging Veloster, he braked late into Brooklands and unwittingly caught the back of Boardley’s similar CUPRA. Boardley was fired onto the Tarmac run-off and did well to avoid spinning as he hauled the car back on track, his strong early progress undone as he slipped back to 10th.
The incident allowed Kent to slip past into fourth and he then demoted Wilson from third at Luffield a lap later. A win looked a possibility for the rapid Veloster, which got inside Cottam for second at Becketts just after mid-race. But a lap later Kent’s challenge was over as his brake pedal went to the floor and sent him into the gravel.
So Cottam was back into second and looked set for a maiden podium, only to be cruelly denied by a driveshaft failure on the penultimate lap. It was a bitter blow, but should not detract from a breakthrough weekend for the young charger.
Out front, Ley was unchallenged as he went on to claim his second consecutive reversed-grid win and keep his title hopes alive. Brickley passed Wilson to cross the line second, but was later penalised for the contact with Boardley. That meant an ecstatic Wilson not only claimed a maiden podium but did so with second place.
Winfield salvaged some decent points from the weekend with third place. But he will have to start the first race at Donington Park next month with a five-place grid penalty. That, along with three licence points which will also cost the erstwhile standings leader nine championship points, were awarded for his optimistic lunge on team-mate Shepherd that ended the latter’s race. A weekend that started so promisingly for Shepherd ended with no return except the six points for pole position.
Winfield had been struggling to hold off Boardley’s strong recovery drive, but the race-one winner was then slowed by intermittent engine problems. He crossed the line eighth, which became seventh when Brickley’s penalty was applied.
All the drama allowed Hutchison to come through for fourth, ahead of Darelle Wilson (Vauxhall Astra) and Wilmot. Behind Boardley and Brickley, Sumpton was ninth, while Luke Sargeant’s Hyundai Elantra N completed the top 10.
A handful of points for 11th and 12th places was a disappointing outcome for the RBR Audis of Constable and Marshall.
Ahead of next month’s penultimate round at Donington Park, Carl Boardley now holds a healthy 45-point championship lead over Bruce Winfield, with 40 points available for a win. Brickley, Constable, Ley and Shepherd realistically need very strong weekends in Leicestershire – and probably a dose of misfortunate for others – if they are going to keep their hopes alive.
Boardley’s Round 10 win also gave him the honours in the Goodyear Diamond Award (for drivers over 40) and the Tom Walker Memorial (for rookies and drivers without podium finishes in previous years). In Round 11, Matthew Wilson took the Tom Walker Memorial section, while Andy Wilmot claimed the laurels in the Goodyear Diamond Award. Oliver Cottam was nominated as the Driver of the Day.
Round 10 winner, Carl Boardley
“Everything went to plan really. I got a great start off the line. I don’t know whether Bruce Winfield bogged down a bit or got some wheelspin but I managed to cut in front of him for Turn 1, so I was up to third. And I thought then I’ve got to go for it on Scott Sumpton, down into Brooklands. Fair play to him, he gave me enough room.
“Then it was a case of trying to get after Adam Shepherd. To be fair to him, he had really, really good pace. All of a sudden he just went straight on. I don’t want to wish bad luck on anybody but it is what it is. Plain sailing from there and I just stroked it home.”
Round 11 winner, Alex Ley
“That was a good one! Eleventh to first, I’m really happy with that – over the moon.
“It was Quali laps, on and on and on. The pressure was on, and I managed to come out on top so I’m really, really happy.”
Next time – Donington Park National!
The 2023 TCR UK Touring Car Championship is back in action in less than 3 weeks time, on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th of September, where rounds 12 & 13 will take place at Donington Park in Leicestershire.
The National layout will be used for this event, as TCR UK returns to the venue that played host to Media Day back in March this year.
You can purchase tickets for this event at the following link: https://www.tcr-uk.co.uk/2023-calendar/