TCR UK Touring Car Championship – Rounds 7, 8 & 9
Knockhill – 22nd – 23rd July 2023
Carl Boardley moved clear at the top of the TCR UK standings by winning twice in TCR UK’s triple-header round at Knockhill on 22-23 July.
Boardley won Saturday’s opener from pole position, was in the victory fight on Sunday morning – when Alex Ley took his first win of the season – then took the honours in the finale too.
Carl Boardley might be in his first TCR UK season, but he has plenty of tin-top experience on the challenging 1.3-mile Knockhill circuit. He put that knowledge of a track he loves to good use, scoring a double pole (for races one and three) in his own CBM with Hart GT CUPRA Leon Competición.
Every driver in the field had at least one time deleted for exceeding track limits on the undulating circuit famed for its tricky, blind corners. But it was those who kept within the boundaries the most who prospered, with Rob Boston Racing team-mates Jac Constable and Joe Marshall setting the second and third fastest times in their Audi RS3 LMSs. In Constable’s case, that was despite carrying 30kg of compensation weight, the Audi’s superior traction also compensating for its longer wheelbase.
Hampered by the maximum 40kg of weight, Area Motorsport’s Alex Ley did well to haul his Hyundai i30 N onto the second row, with team-mate Adam Shepherd fifth fastest and Jenson Brickley (CUPRA) sixth. Brickley’s near-identical second best time was enough to put him on the front row for race three, ahead of Marshall and Callum Newsham.
JH Racing’s Newsham (Hyundai) was seventh fastest overall but would be forced to start race one from the back after an engine change following his Oulton Park blow-up. Also suffering were championship leader Bruce Winfield (Area Motorsport Hyundai) and reigning champion Chris Smiley (Restart Racing Honda Civic Type R FL5) who were only ninth and tenth fastest, respectively. But Smiley was still only marginally more than half a second off Boardley’s pace, illustrating just how competitive the field is.
Round 7 – Race Report
The triple-header race weekend provided an extra opportunity for a public grid walk to take place on Saturday too, with plenty of fans taking advantage of the chance to get up close to cars and drivers before the opening race.
Boardley converted his pole position into the race lead and was never really threatened. A masterclass performance in the CBM machine run in conjunction with Hart GT took him to victory by 10.8s, the biggest winning margin in TCR UK for several years.
The action came behind the four-time National Hot Rod world champion. Constable ran second, initially with team-mate Marshall close behind, but Marshall began to drop back. He was facing pressure from Shepherd and Brickley, who had passed Ley at Clark and then immediately set the fastest lap of the race.
As the pressure told, Marshall picked up two track-limits penalties, while Ley was also penalised, dropping them out of podium contention. So Constable came second, with Shepherd promoted to third. Brickley had a power issue and lost pace in the closing stages, which allowed Winfield to claim fourth in a successful damage-limitation exercise.
Brickley, Ley and Marshall were classified fifth, sixth and seventh, as Bradley Kent’s Essex & Kent Motorsport Hyundai Veloster N was forced to retire with a mechanical issue.
That helped Newsham up to eighth position after an impressive drive from the back of the grid. He enjoyed a great scrap with Smiley, the pair exchanging places at the hairpin and Duffus Dip before Newsham sealed the place.
Behind Smiley in ninth, Matthew Wilson (JWB Motorsport CUPRA) secured the all-important 10th position – and, with it, reversed-grid pole for race two – after getting the better of Audi drivers Oliver Cottam and Garry Townsend and benefiting from Scott Sumpton’s triple track-limits penalty.
Brad Hutchison (Bond-It with MPHR Audi) and Darelle Wilson (DW Racing Vauxhall Astra) would have been in contention but their battle ended with contact at Duffus Dip which put both cars out of the race.
Round 8 – Race Report
Sunday morning’s reversed-grid encounter was arguably the race of the weekend, serving up terrific action throughout the field.
Matthew Wilson converted pole position into the race lead but Smiley quickly found a way past and opened a lead. It was starting to look like Smiley’s new FL5 Civic could be heading for its first victory only for the reigning champion to be forced out after just three laps with a left-front suspension failure.
Wilson thus inherited the lead once more, ahead of Ley, who had made a good start and then passed Newsham through Duffus Dip on the second lap. Newsham’s chances had already been hit by rear-end contact at the first corner which broke an exhaust mount. He was struggling with the car’s balance too and despite remaining in the podium fight for the first half of the race, eventually pitted to retire after being shown the black-and-orange (mechanical warning) and black flags.
Ley was putting pressure on Wilson and managed to take the lead at around one-quarter distance, with a good move into the hairpin. Meantime, Brickley got into third after a scrap with Newsham.
Brickley had already fought off the attentions of Constable and Shepherd. The Audi’s challenge on Brickley into Clark resulted in the three running almost side by side on the exit. Constable was squeezed into a wild ride across the grass and had to pit to clear the airflow to his radiator.
With Ley now leading Brickley and Wilson, Boardley’s CUPRA closed up to Shepherd and made a terrific pass around the outside of the hairpin. He then made another great move around the outside of Newsham for fourth before the trio all dispatched with getting past Wilson.
Once Newsham had pitted, Boardley and Shepherd closed up to Ley and Brickley to make a lead quartet. The CUPRAs looked to have a pace advantage, which forced Ley to drive defensively. That caught Brickley out with two laps to go and he nudged into Ley under braking for the hairpin. The Hyundai was pushed wide, with both Brickley and Boardley nipping inside.
But the drama wasn’t over. Unbeknown to him, Boardley picked up a track-limits penalty. Thinking he was still fighting for victory, the Saturday race winner made an inside move into the final hairpin on the last lap. It was a drag race to the line and Brickley got there first by just 0.017s!
It would have been the closest finish in TCR UK history, but Boardley’s penalty dropped him to fourth. Brickley too was unable to celebrate victory – the clerk of the course gave him a 1s penalty for his move on Ley to reverse their positions.
So Ley claimed his first victory of the season, while Brickley – who held his hands up and took responsibility – was still happy with second, and Shepherd completed the podium.
Boardley was disappointed to suffer at the hands of track limits again, but fourth was still a healthy points haul – particularly as pre-weekend championship leader Winfield did not finish. The Area Motorsport driver tangled with Brickley at the start of the race and ran through the gravel, picking up a puncture and eventually retiring mid-race.
Matthew Wilson finished sixth on the road but was promoted to fifth after Marshall, recovering from a first-corner off, suffered more track limits woe and dropped to sixth. The top 10 was completed by Hutchison, Sumpton, Darelle Wilson and Constable.
Round 9 – Race Report
Boardley’s fine qualifying performance put him on pole position once more for the finale, with fellow CUPRA runner Brickley alongside and Marshall and Newsham on row two.
After the ever-popular public grid walk also took place on Sunday, Boardley, Brickley and Marshall held their positions at the start but Newsham was passed by Shepherd for fourth.
The son of one-time Knockhill touring car race winner Dave Newsham, Callum again struggled with his Hyundai’s balance and got swamped. After contact with Ley’s similar car, he was forced to pit for lengthy repairs.
Boardley began to ease clear as Brickley suffered from understeer and came under increased pressure from Marshall, who set the fastest lap of the race in the process.
But as the action was happening behind him, Boardley was again in total control as he built a 5s lead and then eased to victory, still 3s clear at the flag. A third win in four races gives him a healthy championship lead over Winfield with three race meetings and six races remaining this season.
Meanwhile, Brickley was having to hold off a train comprising Marshall, Shepherd and Constable, the latter managing to snatch fourth from Shepherd through McIntyre’s mid-race.
Thereafter, the four started to spread out again so Brickley was held on to second, completing a strong weekend for the teenager. Marshall was pleased to end the weekend on a high with his second podium finish of the season. Team-mate Constable and Shepherd brought their cars home fourth and fifth.
Ley was sixth, just holding off team-mate Winfield, who will look to bounce back from a relatively low-scoring weekend by shedding compensation weight next time out at Silverstone. Winfield had prized an opening to pass Smiley early in the race, which Kent followed through on his way to eighth, the best result of another difficult weekend for the Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Driver.
Smiley again struggled for pace and, having been passed by Hutchison and his own team-mate Sumpton, toured into retirement. Any hope of retaining his title now looks to be over, barring a miraculous turnaround and a lot of misfortune for others.
So Hutchison finished ninth and Jonathan Beeson (Paul Sheard Racing Audi) impressed with his pace en route to 10th after Sumpton suffered another track-limits penalty.
Boardley’s fantastic weekend also secured him a hat-trick of successes in the Goodyear Diamond Award (for drivers over 40) and he twice took Tom Walker Memorial rookie honours too. He was only denied a clean sweep by Brickley in the second race of the weekend.
Rounds 7 & 9 winner, Carl Boardley
“I’m over the moon with that. I love coming up here, I love this track. You need to wrestle the car round which is a little bit of me!
“Race 2 was pretty good because it was a good spectacle, wasn’t it?
“I’m pretty speechless at the minute. We know the car’s in a good place, thanks to Nick, Paul, Jack, Andy, my dad, everyone behind the scenes. We keep tweaking it race by race, and it’s just getting better and better, more and more suited to me so I can just go out and deliver consistent laps, and then you just bring it home.”
Round 8 winner, Alex Ley
“I don’t think Jenson Brickley hit me on purpose but he did push me wide and the other two got past. But I think I drove well for the whole race.
“I think TCR has stepped up massively in the last two years. I’m really enjoying it, I’ve learnt so much. If you said two years ago I’d be where I am now, I wouldn’t believe you, so I’d like to say a massive thanks to TCR UK for putting on such a great championship and pushing me on as a driver so much.”
Next time – Silverstone National!
The 2023 TCR UK Touring Car Championship is back in action in 4 weeks time, on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th of August, where rounds 10 & 11 will take place at the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone in Northamptonshire.
The National layout will be used for this event, as TCR UK returns to this layout for the first time since 2020.
You can purchase tickets for this event at the following link: https://www.tcr-uk.co.uk/2023-calendar/