Alex Ley claimed his third win of the 2022 TCR UK Championship, despite missing the opening two rounds of the year, in what turned out to be a dramatic and thrilling final encounter of the day at Castle Combe.
With the top ten places in race one dictating the top the in reverse order for race two, Wilson was to start in pole and Constable P2, but as Smiley did in the first race, they too rolled forward before the lights went.
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, from P3 on the grid Ley went past as the field streamed into Quarry for the first time and although being tapped from behind and sent momentarily sideways, managed to hold 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 drift onto the grass on the exit of Camp Corner.
Unfortunately for Hutchison, his race didn’t last much longer, when the Audi’s engine lost power. Also 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 the frantic activity going on behind him, Constable had pulled out a lead from Wilson and even with his car snapping sideways on the exit of almost every corner, amazingly 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, it was Ley that was awarded the victory. Winfield was classified in second – after having his own time penalties overturned – ahead of Constable, Smiley in fourth, Hawkins fifth, Smith in sixth and ni the process earning himself a three place grid drop penalty for next time at Donington Park, Kent seventh, Shepherd eighth, Wilson now ninth and Newsham tenth.
Andy Wilmot claimed the win in the Goodyear diamond trophy after crossing the line in eleventh, ahead of Sumpton (Hyundai), Trotter (CUPRA) and Gales (Volkswagen).