TCR UK – Rounds 10 & 11
Castle Combe – 6th August 2022
Bruce Winfield and Alex Ley snatch last-gasp victories in fast and furious Castle Combe thrillers
In the first of two fiercely fought TCR UK races at Castle Combe on Saturday 6th August, Bruce Winfield grasped victory on the very final corner, when leader up until that point Adam Shepherd slid wide with a suspension issue. End-of-race jeopardy was also in play for race two, when the leader until the half-way point Alex Ley slipped back to third place, only to be elevated back to first when Jac Constable and Matthew Wilson were allocated time penalties for false starts.
The fast and challenging nature of the 1.85-mile Castle Combe circuit was always going to spring a few surprises, especially with the hot conditions putting further demands on tyres and brakes. Therefore, ahead of the race there was a feeling that rounds 10 and 11 of this year’s TCR UK Championship could shape the outcome for the remainder of the 2022 season.
The 30-minute qualifying session once again underlined the effectiveness of the globally controlled technical regulations when the timesheets revealed the top 11 cars – just over half the field – were separated by less than one second. Claiming pole position on this occasion was round one winner Chris Smiley, who took his Restart Racing Honda Civic Type R FK7 around the circuit 0.194 seconds ahead of Adam Shepherd in his Area Motorsport with Shepherd Motors Hyundai i30N.
Winfield (Area Motorsport CUPRA) claimed third place, with Bradley Hutchinson (Bond-it with MPHR Audi RS3 LMS) fourth and Bradley Kent (Essex & Kent Hyundai i30N) fifth and hoping his top-five qualifying position would signal the start of better fortunes following a frustrating year so far. But it was Kent’s team-mate Scott Sumpton who raised most eyebrows, posting a personal best qualifying performance in sixth.
Race 1 – Round 10
An extremely popular pre-race public grid-walk fuelled excitement for the first of the day’s two 25-minute races – and the drama began right from the start, when pole-sitter Smiley’s car stalling just before the red lights went out.
Thankfully, the accelerating pack all missed the stationery Honda, with Shepherd making the most of his front-of-house advantage and taking the lead. Jac Constable (Power Maxed Racing CUPRA) was another who couldn’t get off the line but again, was avoided by the cars behind him and also managed to get away unscathed.
With the first significant corner at Quarry holding the reputation as the most incident-inducing bend in the UK, it was perhaps inevitable there would be casualties when 18 TCR cars tried to negotiate it all at once. In this case, it was winner last time out at Oulton Park Jamie Tonks, who’s Area Motorsport with FastR CUPRA ended its race reversed into the Recticel barrier, a situation that provoked the appearance of the Safety Car.
It was nearly ten minutes before racing resumed, Shepherd acing the restart and consolidating his lead ahead of Winfield, Hutchinson, Isaac Smith (Race Car Consultants VW Golf GTi) and Jess Hawkins (Area Motorsport with FastR CUPRA), who had taken advantage of the excitement going on around her from 12th on the grid.
Suffering a broken rear wheel hub in qualifying and therefore, with a best lap that meant he started from P10, Max Hart was on a mission and passed Hawkins to take fifth. However, the two-times race winner this season’s recent run of bad luck continued, when with seven minutes to go he pulled his JamSport Racing Hyundai i30N into the pits with a broken driveshaft.
There then followed a string of retirements: winner at Castle Combe in 2021 Darelle Wilson parking his DW Racing Astra due to a gearbox oil feed problem; Bradley Kent pitting when his engine lost power; Ant-Wharton Eales retiring his JamSport Subaru Impreza with tyre related issues and then Lewis Kent pulled-out when his Essex & Kent Hyundai Veloster suffered broken suspension.
In comparison, the front of the field looked far more settled with Shepherd pulling out a gap from Winfield. That was until the braking zone before the final bend on the final lap, when the suspension broke, sending the Hyundai momentarily off the track and opening the door for Winfield to snatch victory by 0.7 of a second.
Hutchinson was delighted to score his first ever TCR UK podium result in third, with Smith fourth and securing another haul of points to retain his championship lead. An impressive drive from the back of the field rewarded Smiley with fifth ahead of Hawkins, Callum Newsham (Power Maxed Racing CUPRA), Ley (Daniel James Racing Hyundai i30N), Constable and Matthew Wilson (JWB Motorsport CUPRA) rounding off the top ten.
Race 2 – Round 11
With the top ten places in race one dictating the top the in reverse order for race two, Wilson started in pole and Constable P2, but as the lights went out they rolled forward. There was also pre-race drama for Smiley, when a clutch problem meant he had to start from the pit lane, forcing the former BTCC driver to perform another charge through the field.
Having had to check themselves momentarily off the line, Ley went past from P3 on the grid as the field streamed into Quarry for the first time and although being tapped from behind and sent momentarily sideways, the 17-year-old managed to hang on to the lead, edging out Constable and Wilson going onto the Esses chicane.
Winfield also made-up places and positioned himself hot on the heels of the leading trio, the four of them pulling away from the battle for fifth that was being fiercely fought by Newsham, Hutchison, Shepherd and Smith. Meanwhile, Smiley was making good progress and halfway through the race was up to tenth, as Sumpton dropped back having done well to hang on to his Hyundai during a huge high-speed drift onto the grass on the exit of Camp Corner.
Unfortunately for Hutchinson, his race didn’t last much longer when the Audi’s engine lost power. Dropping out for second time of the day was Whorton-Eales – also with power-related issues – and Max Hart with severe tyre degradation.
With just under ten minutes to go, it was clear that Ley’s car was not handling the way it should, with an issue relating to the left rear of his car. Constable seized the opportunity and found his way past, causing Ley to defend robustly in order to hold off Wilson and Winfield, the upshot enabling Shepherd to hook up onto the back the leading pack.
Having defended all he could, Wilson finally got past Ley with two laps to go, by which time Smiley had also joined the party, closely followed by Hawkins and Smith, Lewis Kent and Tonks. Then, when Shepherd went straight on at Bobbies and dropped back, the scene was set for an enthralling last-lap fight for the final step of the podium.
With half-a-lap to go Tonks slid wide at Tower Corner and again, ended his race engulfed in the Recticel barriers. With all the frantic activity going on behind him, Constable was able to pull away from Wilson and even with his car snapping sideways on the exit of almost every corner, Ley managed to hang on to cross the line in third just fractions of a second ahead of Winfield, Smiley and Hawkins.
But even after the chequered flag, the drama didn’t stop. With Constable and Wilson both receiving a 10-second penalty for their over-eagerness at the start. Therefore, Ley was awarded the victory and in doing so, became the only driver to score three wins this season.
Constable however, had done enough to claim second, with Winfield third – after having his own time penalties overturned – Smiley fourth, Hawkins fifth, Smith sixth, Kent seventh, Shepherd eighth, Wilson now ninth and Newsham tenth.
When the dust of the day finally settled, the results were declared final and the championship points allocated, it’s Isaac Smith who sits at the top of the table on 312 points, Chris Smiley second on 280 and Lewis Kent third on 234. However, when points are dropped from the drivers’ two lowest scores – as per the championship regulations – the top three positions read: Smiley: 277, Smith: 273 and Kent: 225.
In the chase for the Goodyear Diamond Trophy for drivers aged over 40, Neil Trotter took the spoils in race one and Andy Wilmot race two, whereas for the Tom Walker Memorial Trophy for those new to the championship this year, it was Adam Shepherd and Alex Ley respectively. The Co-ordSport Driver of the Day award was presented to Chris Smiley.
Competitors now have three weeks to prepare themselves for their next encounter, when the championship returns to Donington Park on Bank Holiday Monday 29th August for rounds 12 and 13 of what is proving to be TCR UK’s most exciting season yet.
Bruce Winfield – Race 1 Winner
“Taking the lead from my Area Motorsport teammate when he picked up a puncture on the last corner of the last lap is not how you want to win. You want to get there because you earnt it. I’m really sorry for Adam (Shepherd). I could see I wasn’t going to catch him in the final stages, but it does mean championship points and a win on the record sheets. It was a good race, the car felt great and even though it was hot inside, I really enjoyed it.”
Alex Ley – Race 2 Winner
“I really didn’t know I’d won the second race until I got back to the paddock after the race. I had no idea about the penalties being applied to the others. Clearly something was wrong with the rear of the car, which is why it was drifting so much. I think it might have been the tyres, but all I could do is hang on as best I can and try to keep the others behind me. For the third weekend in a row I’m speechless!”
TCR UK is supported by Goodyear, Maximum Networks, Liqui Moly, Corbeau, MaxiCloud Hosted Telephony, Co-ordSport, Berkshire Turbo, Joyce Design, Shepherd Compello Motorsport Insurance, Woya SEO and Sunoco. The Championship is administered by Club Time Attack.