The final round of the 2022 TCR UK Touring Car Championship provided a thrilling conclusion to the season as Lewis Kent took his second win of the year whilst further back, Chris Smiley was able to hold off Isaac Smith to claim the 2022 TCR UK title.
The front row of the grid saw Matthew Wilson on the reversed grid pole position in his JWB Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR, ahead of Darelle Wilson in the DW Racing Vauxhall Astra TCR. As far as the title contenders were concerned, Isaac Smith in the Race Car Consultants Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR would start from ninth place ahead of Chris Smiley in the Restart Racing Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR tenth place.
The situation was simple: Isaac Smith had to finish at least 9 points ahead of Chris Smiley if he was to beat the Honda driver to the title
As Matthew Wilson had a poor start, Darelle Wilson took the lead, however by the time the field had arrived at the Wilsons hairpin, Lewis Kent had moved ahead in his Essex and Kent Motorsport Hyundai Veloster N TCR as Adam Shepherd retired his Area Motorsport with Shepherd Motors Hyundai i30 N TCR not long after the start.
The order at the end of the first lap was Lewis Kent ahead of Jac Constable in the Power Maxed Racing CUPRA TCR and Alex Ley in the Area Motorsport with Daniel James Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR with Darelle Wilson dropping to fourth place. Smith had made up several places, getting ahead of Bruce Winfield as Smiley held off both Bradley Kent and Callum Newsham.
With Darelle Wilson going wide at the Wilsons hairpin two laps later, that allowed Smith to move up to fourth place, however each time the Volkswagen Golf driver moved up a place, the Honda driver also moved up a place, keeping his title rival in sight as he passed Winfield and then Bradley Hutchison in the Bond It with MPH Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR, closing in on Smith.
By lap five, the order was Lewis Kent ahead of Jac Constable, Ley, Smith and Smiley, ahead of Hutchison, Bradley Kent, Winfield, Newsham and Andy Wilmot, leading the Goodyear Diamond Trophy and looking good for the overall win in that category.
As the minutes counted down in the 25miute race, both Smith and Smiley passed Ley, moving up to third and fourth place respectively, as Smiley held the points lead in the standings, leaving Smith to need to win the race. The pair of drivers showed how hard they were pushing as they traded the fastest lap of the race for the next six laps, with the importance of that one point becoming all the more important.
Further back George Jaxon was having a better second race during his debut in the championship, having started the race in 16th place and claiming tenth place during lap nine as up front, Smith, third was ahead of Smiley in fourth as both Ley and Bradley Kent began to close in on the pair. Despite being the faster driver in the first half of the race, Smith changed tactics and began to backup Smiley into both Kent and Ley behind, with the hope that they would get past the Honda driver.
As the race entered its final stages, Smith was defending hard against Smiley with Kent and Ley in close company, however the Race Car Consultants driver went wide at Riches on the penultimate lap, dropping from third place to seventh place, sealing the title for Chris Smiley.
Lewis Kent claimed his second win in what was the 60th TCR UK race, adding to his impressive streak of winning every tenth TCR UK race (20th, 30th, 40th, 50th and 60th races) as Jac Constable took second place, with third place being enough for Chris Smiley to be crowned as the 2022 TCR UK Touring Car Champion and the 2022 Tom Walker Trophy.
Alex Ley came home in fourth place ahead of Bradley Kent and Bradley Hutchison, with the 2022 vice-champion Isaac Smith claiming seventh place. Bruce Winfield, was eighth at the flag ahead of the 2022 Goodyear Diamond Trophy winner Andy Wilmot and pole man Matthew Wilson.
George Jaxon and Mark Havers were the final classified finishers as Jonathon Beeson (Volkswagen), Darelle Wilson (Vauxhall), Callum Newsham (CUPRA), Russell Joyce (CUPRA) and Adam Shepherd (Hyundai) all failed to finish.
Having claimed the 2022 title, Chris Smiley was elated with his triumph at the end of the final race of the year:
“What a year – and what a final race! I had a good a start and, with Isaac (Smith) the only other driver who could still take the title, I needed to stay in contention with him and keep out of trouble. To win, he needed to put a car between us and he tried every trick in the book to back me up so others behind could catch me. So, when he went wide at turn one and lost a few places with two laps to go, I just needed to hold tight and make it to the finish,” explained the Honda driver.
Stewart Lines – TCR UK Championship Manager
“Today has provided an exciting end to what has been a fantastic season. As a championship organiser, you always want the battle for the title to come down to the final race and this year and it all came down to the final few laps.
“I would like to congratulate Chris and the Restart Racing team for a job well done and extend my thanks all the teams and drivers for joining us to make 2022 the best season ever for TCR UK. I must also thank our partners, who’s support has been invaluable in helping us develop the championship into what it is today. I look forward to seeing how Chris gets on in next weekend’s FIA Motorsport Games and announcing more news about our 2023 season over the coming weeks.”
The 2023 TCR UK Touring Car Championship kicks off at Snetterton, using the 300 layout next year, during the Easter weekend of April 8-9. Keep an eye on our Social Media platforms and the TCR UK website as we bring you all of the news and developments ahead of next season.