TCR UK Touring Car Championship – Rounds 12 & 13
Donington Park National – 9th & 10th September 2023
Shepherd came close to a maximum score by taking his Hyundai i30 N to a win and second place from his front-row start. Alistair Camp claimed his maiden victory in the second race on a day when Jenson Brickley and Brad Hutchison both suffered post-race heartbreak.
Jenson Brickley hit the ground running with a prodigious dry-weather pace in his Jenson Brickley Racing CUPRA Leon Competición. The teenage rising star had often found qualifying to be an Achilles heel but took a maiden pole position by an impressive 0.263 seconds.
Brickley held an advantage of more than half a second until some late improvements whittled his margin down. Adam Shepherd was next fastest in his Hyundai i30 N, slightly hampered by a new-tyres setup that limited budget meant had to be determined from testing on very old tyres.
Shepherd’s Area Motorsport team-mate Bruce Winfield was third fastest, a further 0.136s back, but would have to start eighth owing to a five-place grid penalty earned at Silverstone. So row two of the grid would comprise Rob Boston Racing duo Jac Constable and Joe Marshall in their Audi RS3 LMS Gen II machinery.
Sixth fastest was Brad Hutchison. The Bond IT with MPHR driver was having a one-off outing in the CUPRA Leon of Steve Gales, who remains part of the MPHR camp. Hutchison was revelling in the Gen II car’s performance advantage over his regular Gen I Audi and was less than seven-tenths off the pace, despite running a basic factory set-up. Sadly, the car failed its ride height test, consigning Hutchison to a back-of-the-grid start, with a 10s penalty.
It was a similar story for Alistair Camp. The one-time Civic Cup champion was making his second TCR UK appearance in the Pro Alloys Racing Hyundai, taking advantage of a free weekend in the Civic Cup calendar. Camp missed the first half of the session as the team had to fit a new turbo, but then went just 0.001s slower than Hutchison. Unfortunately, as the turbo was fitted, its boost wasn’t fully recalibrated, leading to an overboost that left Camp joining Hutchison at the back of the grid.
Bradley Kent (Essex & Kent Motorsport Hyundai Veloster N) was promoted to fifth on the grid, ahead of Chris Smiley. The Restart Racing driver was feeling some benefit of a combined testing effort with international star Nestor Girolami, development driver for the new-for-2023 FL5-shape Honda Civic built by JAS Motorsport in Italy.
Oliver Cottam (Paul Sheard Racing Audi) continued his strong Silverstone form by earning seventh on the grid, while Callum Newsham (JH Racing Hyundai) was ninth behind Winfield. The top 10 was completed by championship leader Carl Boardley’s CUPRA. Boardley had suffered a rear brake-pipe failure, and was satisfied that he would otherwise have been among the pacesetters.
Round 12 – Race Report
The temperature on Sunday morning was not as hot as the scorching conditions the drivers had faced in qualifying, but tyre management was still likely to play a role over the 25-minute race.
From the outside of the front row, Shepherd made a good start and hung on beside Brickley through the opening right-hander at Redgate. The pair exchanged a couple of bangs as they sped down the hill, with Brickley edging in front into the Old Hairpin.
But a combination of better momentum and Brickley slowing when he saw safety-car boards appear, as opposed to when he passed them, let Shepherd in front through Schwantz Curve. As the pack concertinaed at McLeans, Brickley thought Shepherd was letting him back through and resumed the lead.
The race result hinged on that incident. Nobody could live with Brickley’s pace once green-flag running resumed after Darelle Wilson had extracted his Vauxhall Astra from the gravel. Brickley built a big advantage that ballooned to 10s at the chequered flag as Shepherd suffered with an oil leak. But the clerk of the course deemed that Brickley had passed under safety-car conditions and reversed the top two’s order, handing Shepherd a belated first win of the season.
Behind the lead pair, Marshall’s race was ruined by contact as the pack slowed for the safety car. With his Audi’s power-steering broken, he was forced to retire. That gave team-mate Constable some breathing space as he claimed a fourth podium finish of the season.
There was plenty more action in their wake. As Kent took an arcing line into Redgate, Smiley saw an invitingly open door on the inside and pounced to snatch fourth. Winfield attempted to follow through, only for the door to close. Heavy contact was enough to break the window on Kent’s Veloster but, more crucially, it also bent an upright, forcing yet another non-finish on the Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Driver. Winfield was able to continue, albeit slightly wounded, but would receive two points on his licence (and the resulting championship points deduction) for the incident.
Newsham had terrific pace in his Hyundai through the opening half of the race and, having passed Winfield, ran side-by-side with Smiley through the fearsome Craner Curves before taking fourth.
Boardley too was making progress. Having demoted Winfield exiting Coppice on lap five of 21, he caught and passed Smiley into Redgate mid-race. The CBM with Hart GT man then took Newsham as the south coast-based driver began to lose pace. A recurrent misfire had returned to haunt the JH Racing man, who seemingly couldn’t buy any luck, and he plummeted to 12th at the flag. Meantime, Boardley closed up to Constable but didn’t attempt any rash moves and settled for fourth.
Area Motorsport’s Alex Ley, who started 16th after his own grid penalty, was working his way up the order. He got a run on team-mate Winfield through the Old Hairpin as they negotiated traffic and the pair then closed up to Smiley. In the ensuing scrap, Ley dived inside Smiley, only to run wide and let Winfield pass them both. That clinched Winfield fifth position, limiting his points deficit to Boardley, while Ley secured sixth with a last lap pass of Smiley.
Hutchison was another making eye-catching progress through the field. Aided by the safety car effectively eliminating his 10s penalty, he picked his way forward to claim eighth at the flag and prove that the ride height infringement was not a significant factor in his strong pace.
Most of the rest of the field was focused on the battle to reach the lower end of the top 10 and benefit from the reversed grid later on. Cottam was eliminated when his front left tyre let go on the Exhibition straight, while Camp followed in Hutchison’s wake to jump the squabbling Scott Sumpton and Matthew Wilson and secure ninth. After a fine battle, JAS junior driver Sumpton managed to hold off Wilson and secure the coveted race-two pole position in his Restart Racing FK7-shape Honda Civic.
Round 13 – Race Report
Just as forecasted, heavy rain fell before Sunday afternoon’s reversed-grid finale, adding a further variable to spice up the action. It did ease off, and with warm temperatures expected to help the track dry quickly, teams had a tough call to make on tyre choice.
Ultimately no one took the gamble to start on slicks but that meant the drivers would have to take care of their wet Goodyear rubber to avoid overheating it.
From the second row of the grid, Hutchison and Smiley made the best starts and muscled their way past polesitter Sumpton. Suffering from his lack of experience in the car, Camp was relatively slow away from second but did hold on to fourth, ahead of Ley, Brickley, Shepherd and Newsham.
Behind Winfield in ninth, it was clear that Boardley was struggling, and he soon lost out to Constable and Marshall before dropping even further, too high tyre pressures on his CUPRA being the culprit.
Brickley was running a similar set-up and he too began to suffer. After slipping outside the top 10, the youngster called it a day, knowing that he could replace the race with a previous dropped score of eighth.
Out front, Hutchison appeared to be untroubled, despite a brief moment on the second tour. Smiley too looked comfortable in second, enjoying the leveller that wet conditions create. Camp and Ley both passed Sumpton, while Shepherd got the better of his scrap with Newsham.
Newsham ran wide as he passed the ailing Brickley, which allowed Winfield into seventh and helped Marshall and Constable to join the scrap.
As the rain eased in the second half of the race, lap times began tumbling, especially over the last few laps. But any worries that Hutchison might have had over his rubber were unfounded as he drove serenely on to what would have been his maiden victory in TCR UK.
Camp was the quickest man on track as the conditions started to transition. He closed up to Smiley and began to exert pressure on the reigning champion. But the experienced racer held on to secure the FL5’s second podium and its best result, having finished third in the season opener at Snetterton.
Alas, it was not to be for Hutchison and his delighted MPHR crew or Smiley and his Restart Racing squad. Both cars failed post-race ride height checks. The pair were excluded from the result and so Camp’s maiden podium suddenly became a dream first win in just his fourth TCR start.
Shepherd cleared Sumpton for fifth, then set the fastest laps on the 17th and 18th of 19 laps, before snatching fourth – which became second – from Ley on the final lap. A massive 80-point haul for the weekend lifts Shepherd to second in the standings ahead of the Brands Hatch finale. While Boardley’s advantage remains more than the value of a race win, he now can’t afford any slip-ups in Kent with the in-form Shepherd ready to pounce.
The third Area i30 of Bruce Winfield dropped back after a gravelly excursion but set the fastest lap on the final tour on his way to an eventual eighth. Winfield has slipped to third in the standings but remains in contention for the title.
Marshall’s impressive drive from the back of the grid eventually yielded fourth place, ahead of Sumpton, Newsham and Constable. Behind Winfield, Luke Sargeant secured his best result of ninth after a strong drive in the difficult Hyundai Elantra, while Boardley could do no better than 10th – a result that will become one of his dropped scores.
Additional honours are also on offer in the Tom Walker Memorial Trophy, for rookie drivers and those without podium finishes in previous seasons, and the Goodyear Diamond Award for drivers over 40. Brickley’s and Camp’s results earned them the laurels in the Tom Walker Memorial section, while Boardley scored another double in the Goodyear Diamond Award.
Round 12 winner, Adam Shepherd
“It’s not how you want to get the win. The car felt phenomenal to be fair, just not quite fast enough to stay Jenson Brickley.”
Round 13 winner, Alistair Camp
“I can’t believe it. I could see where I was quicker than Chris Smiley and where Chris was quicker than me but if I’d have made a move we probably wouldn’t have been stood here. You’ve got to race with your head.”
Next time – Brands Hatch Indy – The 2023 Season Finale!
The 2023 TCR UK Touring Car Championship is back in action in 6 weeks time, on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd of October, where rounds 14 & 15 will take place at Brands Hatch in Kent, where the final two races of the year will see the 2023 Champion crowned.
The Indy layout will be used for this event, which takes place during the same weekend as the annual Formula Ford Festival.
You can purchase tickets for this event at the following link: https://www.tcr-uk.co.uk/2023-calendar/