TCR UK – Rounds 3 & 4
Donington Park – 29th May 2022
Max Hart scores double victory in TCR UK rounds three and four at Donington Park
It was a perfect Sunday for Max Hart when the young Irishman claimed a commanding victory in TCR UK rounds three and four and set the fastest lap in both races at Donington Park on Sunday 29th May. In doing so, he increased his lead in the championship standings to 44 points, as others experienced a weekend of mixed fortunes.
From the start of the first race to the finish of the second, the action never stopped with battles taking place throughout the field, underlining that the globally-regulated TCR package provides some of the closest and most exciting touring car racing there is.
Second and third in round three were Bradley Kent and Isaac Smith, whereas it was Chris Smiley and Bruce Winfield who joined the twice-winner on the podium for round four.
Saturday’s Qualifying proved without doubt the competitiveness of this year’s TCR UK Championship, when less than one-second separated the top 11 drivers at the end of the 30-minute session.
Chris Smiley recorded his second consecutive pole position of the season in the Restart Racing Honda Civic Type R FK7, the round one winner posting his best time towards the end of the session. A miniscule 0.021 seconds behind, Hugo Cook put the frustrations of his Oulton Park weekend aside to claim a close second in his Audi RS3 LMS, whilst just 0.264 seconds back was Adam Shepherd, who placed his JamSport Racing Hyundai i30N in third for the first of the weekend’s two races.
Round 3 – Race Report
When the lights went out, pole-sitter Smiley made the most of his advantage and led the 25-car field into Redgate (turn one) ahead of Shepherd and Hart in his JamSport Racing Hyundai i30N. In contrast, Cook’s launch off the line from P2 didn’t go as planned, when his car suffered a loss of power.
Even though they were inseparable, the top three held station until entry into McLeans on lap two, when Shepherd and Smiley touched, the contact resulting in the race leader taking to the grass. As a precautionary measure, Smiley headed into the pits to have the radiator cleared of debris and the car checked for damage before returning to the track, albeit significantly down the order.
With Shepherd’s car showing signs of its previous encounter, Hart seized the opportunity and at the start of lap three, snatched the lead at Redgate and proceeded to pull away from the rest of the field.
A battle for third now raged between brothers Bradley and Lewis Kent in their Essex & Kent Motorsport Hyundai i30 N and Veloster N respectively – and Smith, with them caught a lap later by a charging Jamie Tonks (FastR Area Motorsport CUPRA) in sixth. Such was their pace, the quartet reeled in Shepherd and on lap seven Bradley Kent found a way past at the Esses and set off after Hart, who was by now 10 seconds further up the road.
Shepherd however, pulled into the pits with a broken rear shock absorber, leaving the battle for second between the Kent brothers, Smith and Tonks. Others who visited the pits were round two winner Jessica Hawkins (FastR Area Motorsport CUPRA), 2021 runner-up Bruce Winfield (Area Motorsport CUPRA) and 2021 VW Cup Champion Jack Depper (Capture Motorsport VW Golf GTi), each suffering from sudden tyre degradation.
With Hart ultimately uncatchable, Bradly Kent could do no more than settle for second. However, the fight for the final step of the podium continued right up to the closing stages of the 25-minute race with Tonks making a bid for supremacy on a number of occasions, only to slide wide under braking. Consequently, Lewis Kent crossed the line in third ahead of Smith, although their positions were later reversed when the Clerk of Course deemed Kent’s earlier passing manoeuvre a little too robust.
Despite his aborted overtaking attempts, Tonks was happy with fifth place, having only taken delivery of his sequential gearshift CUPRA on Friday. Also pleased with his morning’s work was Alex Ley (Daniel James Motorsport Hyundai i30N), sixth an impressive result for the TCR UK debutant.
Also delivering an impressive performance was Bradley Hutchinson in seventh (Bond-it with MPHR Audi RS3 LMS), and Ant Whorton-Eales, who gave the JamSport Racing Subaru Impreza TCR its best UK result to date in eighth.
Rounding off the top ten was Matthew Wilson (JWB Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR) and Scott Sumpton (Essex & Kent Motorsport Hyundai i30N) in 10th – another impressive showing, bearing in mind the 17-year-old had only previously competed in the Junior Saloon Car Championship before moving to TCR UK this year.
Adding to his achievement, with championship regulations dictating that the top 10 positions are reversed for the second of the day’s two races, Sumpton would line up in pole position for the afternoon’s round four.
In other news, Russell Joyce (Power Maxed Racing CUPRA) was awarded the Goodyear Diamond Trophy for drivers aged 40 and over, whilst the Tom Walker Memorial Trophy for drivers who are new to the championship this year or didn’t score a podium last year went to Isaac Smith.
Round 4 – Race Report
The second race of the day didn’t start well for Bradley Kent. In fact, for the Essex and Kent driver it didn’t start at all when his car came to a halt on the out lap on the way to the grid. For his teammate Sumpton, his first ever pole position start was a far more memorable occasion.
As cars exited the first corner, it was Whorton-Eales who led the pack, followed by Hutchinson, Wilson and Lewis Kent, who claimed third place at the Old Hairpin – all four getting past Sumpton in the opening stages. Notably, the drivers making the most impressive progress on the opening lap were were Hart, who had climbed from 10th to fourth, Smiley from 14th to seventh and Winfield from 18th to ninth.
With the top half of the 24-car field running so close together it was perhaps inevitable a skirmish would transpire and, as the peloton reached the Esses on the second lap, Smith and then Wilson spun onto the gravel in two unrelated incidents. Whilst Smith continued, Wilson did not, his beached CUPRA signalling the appearance the Safety Car for the next two laps.
A clean getaway by Whorton-Eales when racing resumed saw him lead the pack away, but behind him the action continued from where it left off. With little more than a second separating the next eight cars, Hart made his move on Hutchinson – who’s front-right wing was showing the scars of battle – on the entry to Redgate. The Irishman then did the same to Whorton-Eales a lap later, grasping the lead at the start of lap six.
Kent was next to challenge Hutchinson and Whorton-Eales, but contact as he did so launched him onto the gravel, first on the outside of McLeans then again at Coppice, the Essex & Kent driver doing well to keep his Hyundai Veloster pointing in the right direction. Unfortunately for Whorton-Eales, the damage sustained in the various exchanges meant his race would end in the pits half-a-lap later.
All this activity played into the hands of Smiley, who did not need asking twice to claim second place, whilst another battle for third began to emerge behind him between Hutchinson, Winfield, Constable, Tonks and Ley. Hart was also a beneficiary of the excitement, as he was once again able to increase his lead, this time ahead of Smiley, who was also pulling away from the chasing pack that was now headed by Winfield.
But neither of them could catch Hart, who went on to claim his second victory and second fastest lap of the day. Behind the leading trio, it was Tonks who won the battle for fourth, ahead of Hutchinson and Constable, followed by Smith and Kent who had recovered from their previous excursions.
Behind them, Andy Wilmot (JamSport Racing Hyundai i30N) was delighted to record a top-ten finish in ninth and claim the Goodyear Diamond Trophy in the process.
Having started from the back of the grid due to her DNF in the first race, an impressive performance through the field by Hawkins netted the round two winner a hard-earned 10th place. The Tom Walker Memorial Trophy on this occasion went to Chris Smiley, whilst Bruce Winfield won the Co-ordSport Driver of the Day award.
Teams now prepare themselves for the next encounter, which sees rounds five, six and seven take place at Brands Hatch on 18th & 19th June.
TCR UK is supported by Goodyear, Maximum Networks, Liqui Moly, Corbeau, MaxiCloud Hosted Telephony, Co-ordSport, Berkshire Turbo, Joyce Design, Shepherd Compello Motorsport Insurance, Sunoco UK and Woya Digital. The Championship is administered by Club Time Attack.
“What can I say, other than what’s just happened is absolutely amazing. Coming into this weekend, I really didn’t think I was going to win both races. Okay, so winning the first was great, but then to do it again from P10 on the grid, was more than I could have hoped for.
“I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me and the JamSport Racing team who gave me a perfect car. Whilst others had problems and got caught up with battles during the race, I was lucky to get to the front unscathed on both occasions and then, just got my head down and was able to pull out a gap. To add two fastest laps to the wins makes things even better!
“I’m approaching things differently this year. My focus is on the championship and scoring a good haul of points at every round. So, to take two wins today is a real bonus and puts me exactly where I want to be at this point in the season.”