Carl Boardley secured the 2023 TCR UK Touring Car Championship title with an assured performance in the season finale in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Brands Hatch.
Continuing his season-long strong pace and consistency, Boardley wrapped up the honours by taking his CUPRA Leon Competición to fourth place in the day’s opening race, won by the Hyundai i30 N of Alex Ley. Jac Constable then finished the season on a high by piloting his Audi RS3 LMS Gen II to victory in the final race of 2023.
Jenson Brickley gave his outside chances of securing the title a boost by claiming a second consecutive pole position in his Jenson Brickley Racing CUPRA Leon Competición.
Following a wet free practice and a forecast of rain for much of the day, some were expecting a mixed-up grid. But Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session in fact brought dry conditions which suited rising star Brickley. As the only driver carrying the maximum 40kg of compensation weight, he defied the odds to go fastest, albeit by only 0.03 seconds as the first five on the grid were separated by little more than a tenth.
Second fastest was Callum Newsham in his JH Racing Hyundai i30 N. After a season blighted by bad luck, Newsham was delighted with his performance, if a little disappointed to have come so close to a maiden pole position. Newsham was on provisional pole for several minutes until Brickley managed to pip his time.
Row two of the grid would feature Alex Ley (Area Motorsport with Daniel James Hyundai) – another who was thankful for the improved weather – and the Restart Racing Honda Civic Type R FL5 of Chris Smiley, a welcome return to form for the outgoing champion.
Championship leader Carl Boardley (CBM with Hart GT CUPRA) battled oversteer, which caused a late spin, to qualify fifth fastest. Crucially, he was ahead of his two closest rivals coming into the weekend, Adam Shepherd and Bruce Winfield. The Area Motorsport pair, each carrying 30kg of compensation weight aboard their Hyundai’s, could only manage seventh and 11th fastest times respectively.
Sandwiching Shepherd were the Rob Boston Racing Audi RS3 LMS Gen II cars of Joe Marshall and Jac Constable, barely three-tenths off the pace. Oliver Cottam (Paul Sheard Racing Audi) and Scott Sumpton (Restart Racing Honda Civic Type R FK7) completed the top 10.
Behind Winfield, 12th fastest was the returning Andy Wilmot. The Rob Boston Racing driver was honouring the memory of his good friend Dan Kirby by racing under Kirby’s name and number in the CUPRA the popular driver had raced earlier this season.
Round 14 – Race Report
After the highs of Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, Brickley was brought back to earth by a cruel misfortune ahead of Sunday’s opening race. A gear actuator problem prevented his car from selecting gear as the cars left their garages. The JBR squad managed to apply a fix but not before the pits had closed, consigning Jenson to start from the pitlane and leaving his pole position slot vacant.
That effectively promoted Newsham into pole but his Hyundai spun its wheels when the lights went out. It was Smiley who made the best start and he powered into the lead, with Ley also jumping Newsham for second.
Boardley, who knew he only needed to finish in front of his main rivals to seal the title, ran fourth ahead of Shepherd, Marshall and Constable. But Shepherd was determined to do all he could to prolong the championship battle and found a way past Boardley at the left-right flick of Surtees on the second of 28 laps.
After a safety-car period to retrieve a beached car from the Paddock Hill Bend gravel, racing resumed on lap seven. With Ley getting slightly sideways through Clearways, Smiley was able to make a good restart but soon found himself back under pressure. The field appeared to be getting bottled up behind the leader, whose car looked stronger on corner exits than entries.
As the race approached half-distance, it appeared that Smiley might have weathered the storm, having eked out a lead of nearly half a second over Ley. But unfortunate timing meant that Wilmot, who’d pitted after earlier contact, emerged from the pits right in front of the leader. That inadvertently gave Ley a run on Smiley and, having run side by side for a couple of corners, the teenager successfully completed his move into Surtees.
As Ley streaked clear, Smiley now had his mirrors full of Newsham’s Hyundai. He withstood the pressure valiantly for a few laps only to suddenly slow and cruise into retirement, the FL5’s power-steering having failed. With the problem unable to be rectified for the day’s second race, it brought a frustrating end to a difficult season aboard the new car for the 2022 champion.
By the time Newsham was released into second, he was more than 5s adrift of Ley with only a handful of laps remaining. Newsham reduced that deficit to 3s over the closing stages but Ley still took a comfortable victory, his third of the season. For Newsham, it was an overdue first podium of the season, having suffered more than his fair share of bad luck.
Behind them, Shepherd began to drop back as a turbo problem impacted his straightline speed. But Boardley was unwilling to take too much risk, knowing that the positions as they stood were enough for him to clinch the title – and its terrific £15,000 prize – in his first season in the championship. The pair finished third and fourth, just ahead of Marshall who had briefly lost out to team-mate Constable earlier in the race before regaining the position.
Sixth place went to Brickley after a remarkable drive from his pitlane start. The young Midlander scythed through the field, setting the fastest lap. He took sixth from Constable with a couple of laps remaining but could not find a way past Marshall.
Behind Constable in seventh was a disappointed Winfield, who had been delayed in some of the earlier squabbling. Cottam was ninth ahead of Brad Hutchison’s Gen I version of the Audi, which would leave the pair on the front of the grid for the second race.
Round 15 – Race Report
With the championship settled, the reversed-grid finale had an end-of-term feel to it, with everyone out to enjoy themselves and end the season on a high.
As outside front-row man Cottam was slowed by wheelspin off the line, polesitter Hutchison managed a decent getaway. But Winfield made a terrific start from row two and cut inside Hutchison exiting the first corner at Paddock Hill Bend to take the lead.
From row four, Boardley’s start was even better as he catapulted himself into fourth, then looked set to take third as Cottam ran wide at the Druids hairpin. But as Cottam came back online, both Boardley and Constable were on his inside and the Paul Sheard Racing Audi got spun around in front of the pack.
Cottam’s car was unavoidably collected by Matthew Wilson’s CUPRA which in turn slewed into the path of Sumpton. All three cars were heavily damaged, requiring the race to be stopped.
In the melee, Brickley had put a wheel on the grass with the resulting loss of grip causing him to spin at the next corner moments before the red flags appeared. He was thankful that a complete restart was required – over a shortened duration of 18 minutes – from the original grid positions.
Alone on the front row of the grid, Hutchison converted pole position into the race lead, with Winfield and Brickley moving into second and third. Just behind, first corner contact between Shepherd and Marshall sent Shepherd sideways into Marshall’s path. That knocked Shepherd back straight but he was left with a broken rear hub and damper and could only limp to the pits to retire. Marshall meanwhile was fired into the inner barriers and out of the race.
When the resulting safety car peeled in, Winfield stuck firmly to Hutchison’s tail. But as Winfield tried to go round the outside line at Druids, he ended up on the grass and slipped to fourth as Constable, who had dived into third at Paddock Hill Bend, and Brickley passed.
Hutchison had not managed to keep heat in his tyres in the caution period and a sideways moment at McLaren let Constable, Brickley and Winfield past. Ley then further demoted Hutchison at Paddock before making a robust move past his team-mate into Clearways a lap later for third.
Constable and Brickley began to pull clear at the head of the field, with the leading Audi coming under increasing pressure from the chasing CUPRA. The pair clearly had differing strengths, making for a tense battle. Ultimately, Constable’s better traction exiting Clearways enabled him to build just enough of a gap to cancel out Brickley’s advantage elsewhere.
Constable withstood the intense pressure to take his second win of the season, matching his tally from each of the previous two years. With Shepherd sidelined, it was also enough to clinch fourth in the final points standings, continuing his year-on-year progression.
Second for Brickley completed another strong weekend, despite his earlier dramas. It sealed third in the championship and the £5,000 pound prize that comes with it. Ley held third place for his seventh podium finish of the season, more than anyone else. In the process, the Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Driver clinched second in the standings and a cheque for £10,000.
Winfield fought a rear-guard action to hold off Boardley but, in doing so, he transgressed track limits and earned himself 15s of penalties, which dropped the Area driver to ninth position.
Boardley was among those to benefit from Winfield’s penalty but it was Newsham who beat the new champion to fourth. Once Newsham had managed to clear Hutchison, he closed up Winfield and Boardley, setting the fastest lap in the process. He pounced immediately, passing Boardley’s CUPRA around the outside of Druids. But Newsham too was unable to pass Winfield on the road and so had no chance to challenge Ley.
Boardley was classified fifth, completing a fine season in which only three times did he not finish in the top six. After a few near-misses in other categories, the four-time National Hot Rod world champion was finally able to celebrate his first championship win in circuit racing.
Wilmot was sixth, matching his result at Silverstone in August, ahead of Hutchison. Luke Sargeant brought his Hyundai Elantra N home eighth to record his best finish in his first season of racing. Behind the demoted Winfield, Rick Kerry also achieved his best result with 10th place in a first-generation CUPRA TCR.
Boardley’s fourth place in the day’s opening race brought him further silverware as it meant he also won both the Tom Walker Trophy section (for newcomers and those without podiums in previous seasons) and Goodyear Diamond Award (for drivers over 40).
The Goodyear Diamond Award again went Boardley’s way in the finale, although he sportingly handed the trophy to Wilmot to accept in memory of the late Dan Kirby. Brickley topped the Tom Walker Trophy runners in the second race but it wasn’t enough to prevent Boardley taking a clean sweep of all the major season-long honours.
Area Motorsport, who ran three of the top six in the drivers’ championship, secured the teams’ title ahead of Rob Boston Racing.
2023 TCR UK drivers’ champion, Carl Boardley
“Thanks to everyone behind me – my parents, my wife, the kids, all the team. Without them I wouldn’t even be here, let alone stood here with this championship.
“I’m absolutely made up. It’s been a long time coming for another championship because it must be a good 12 or so years since I’ve won an overall championship in anything.
“It’s just great to come back from some struggles, some health struggles a few years back, and do what we love to do.”
Round 14 winner, Alex Ley
“I’m so happy with P1. It was a good race – hard battles with Chris Smiley. Once I managed to get through, it was just a case of going as fast as I could every lap.”
Round 15 winner, Jac Constable
“That was one of my harder fought wins. Jenson Brickley was stronger in some places, I was stronger in other bits, so I just had to make sure I kept getting right the parts where he was stronger. That’s just what I needed to end the season.”
Next time – Brands Hatch Indy – The 2024 Season Opener!
The 2024 TCR UK Touring Car Championship is back in action on 13th & 24th of April, 2024, with the new season getting underway at Brands Hatch in Kent, using the Indy layout
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.