TCR UK – Rounds 1 & 2
Oulton Park – 18th April 2022
Chris Smiley takes first win of the season in Round 1 whilst Jessica Hawkins makes history with victory in Round 2
Chris Smiley got his 2022 TCR UK campaign off to a perfect start, by taking his Restart Racing Honda Civic Type R TCR FK7 from pole position to victory in the Championship’s opening round at Oulton Park on Easter Monday (18th April), the former BTCC front-runner making a seamless transition to the TCR UK grid.
The second of the day’s two races witnessed history in the making, when Jessica Hawkins became the first British woman to take overall victory in a touring car race, the Area Motorsport by FastR driver taking her CUPRA TCR from second on the grid to an emphatic win ahead of the 24-car field.
The first meeting for the TCR UK Championship was always going to be a spectacular affair, with the biggest entry since the series began in 2018 set to make 2022 the most exciting and highest profile season yet for the UK edition of the competition for global specification touring cars.
Taking place over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend at an event hosted by the Intelligent Money British GT Championship and utilising Oulton Park’s International configuration circuit, the TCR UK programme featured a 30-minute Qualifying session on Saturday, with two 25-minute races on Monday.
Chris Smiley signalled his intentions from the word go by taking pole position by 0.222 seconds from Isaac Smith in his Race Car Consultants VW Golf GTi TCR, who was in turn a slender 0.338 seconds ahead of last year’s TCR UK runner-up Bruce Winfield in his Area Motorsport-run CUPRA TCR.
JamSport Racing stablemates Max Hart and Adam Shepherd – both driving Hyundai i30N TCRs – traded fastest times early in the session to finish P4 and P6 respectively, whilst last year’s Champion Lewis Kent, slotted in between them driving his new-for-this-year Essex & Kent Motorsport-run Hyundai Veloster N TCR – the only car of its kind currently competing in Europe.
ROUND 1 REPORT
A perfect getaway when the lights went out catapulted Chris Smiley to the front of the field as all 24 cars made it cleanly through turn-one at Old Hall. Whilst Smith moved into second place, Winfield dropped back after ‘bogging-down’ off the line, allowing Hart into third and Kent into fourth.
Frustratingly for Rob Butler in his JWB & Maximum Motorsport VW Golf GTi TCR and Brad Hutchinson in the MPHR Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR both retired on the first lap with suspension and driveshaft issues respectively, whilst 2021 multiple race-winner Bradley Kent retired his Essex and Kent Hyundai i30N TCR on lap two with transmission troubles.
As Smiley took control at the front of the field, the battle between Smith and Hart raged, but with Smith’s Golf suffering from a failing fuel pump, Hart didn’t need asking twice and went past as they crossed the start finish line with nine minutes of the 25 to go.
Also in the closing stages, Winfield passed Lewis Kent at Island Bend to claim fourth place. Just behind the top two finishing drivers from 2021, Jac Constable had worked his way up from 11th on the grid into sixth ahead of his Power Maxed Racing teammate Callum Newsham, both in CUPRA TCRs. Next was Jack Depper, who claimed eighth place in the Capture Motorsport VW Golf TCR after climbing up the order in the second half of the race.
Giving the Subaru Impreza WRX TCR its first UK race appearance, JamSport Racing’s Ant Whorton-Eales starred early on in the fight for tenth but retired from loss of boost pressure. Also exiting towards the end of the race was Andy Wilmot after his JamSport Racing Hyundai i30N TCR made contact with the tyre barrier at Knickerbrook Chicane.
Consequently, the top ten was completed by the Area Motorsport by FastR CUPRA TCR duo of Jess Hawkins and Jamie Tonks, who would occupy pole position for round two by virtue of the top ten from the first race being reversed for the second.
ROUND 2 REPORT
Off the line, Hawkins hooked up a better start than her team-mate Tonks in pole position and took the lead at the first corner. Constable stormed through from fifth on the grid and up to second, with Callum Newsham – Constable’s Power Maxed Racing CUPRA teammate – and Hart also gaining places on the run down to turn two at Cascades.
A start-line shunt caused the first appearance of the Safety Car after lap one, when a slow start by Steve Gales in the Playerlands Audi RS3 LMS TCR resulted in contact between Wilmot’s Hyundai and Kieran Griffin’s JWB Motorsport run Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR. Whilst not involved with the incident, Bradley Kent suffered his second DNF of the day and pulled off the track at Island Bend.
Racing resumed two laps later with Hawkins leading Constable and Newsham ahead of Hart, Smith, Tonks, followed by race one winner Smiley, Lewis Kent, Adam Shepherd and Jack Depper. The order reshuffled again as Tonks went wide at Cascades before the second Safety Car period of the race was instigated by Gales going off and getting stuck in the gravel at Lodge.
Hawkins judged her restart on lap seven perfectly and increased the gap between her and Constable, who consequently retired half a lap later at Knickerbrook Chicane. Hart then took up the challenge and closed on Hawkins but despite numerous attempts to force an error, the W Series competitor, F1 TV presenter and Ambassador for the Congnizant Aston Martin F1 team held on to the lead to take an impressive and well-deserved victory.
With the long game in his mind, a clean and calculated drive by Hart saw him claim second place number two, whilst Newsham took his first-ever TCR UK podium, with the battling Smith, Smiley and Kent completing the top six places.
Depper finished seventh, whilst Shepherd crossed the line in sixth but was classified eighth after receiving a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits. The top ten was completed by Hutchinson in ninth and Matthew Wilson tenth in the JWB Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición.
Russell Joyce finished in 11th place and having also done so in the first race, secured the Goodyear Diamond Trophy for drivers aged 40. Smiley and Hawkins’ respective wins also netted them the Tom Walker Trophy for rookie drivers.
Having claimed third in qualifying and finishing second in both races, Hart left Oulton Park leading the championship standings with 74 points, ahead of Chris Smiley in second with 71 and Smith third with 62.
TCR UK rounds three and four take place at Donington Park over the weekend of 28 & 29th May, when once again, the Club Time Attack administered championship will share the weekend’s programme with the Intelligent Money British GT Championship.
TCR UK is supported by Goodyear, Maximum Networks, Liqui Moly, Corbeau, MaxiCloud Hosted Telephony, Co-ordSport, Berkshire Turbo, Joyce Design, Shepherd Compello Motorsport Insurance, Maximum Performance and Sunoco. The Championship is administered by Club Time Attack.
Round 1 winner – Chris Smiley
“With the deal to compete in this year’s TCR Championship only coming together during the past few days, I’m delighted to have been able to make such a strong start to the season and the win in race one is a perfect way to kick things off. Because the top 10 grid positions are reversed for race two, it was always going to be important to stay out of trouble, so I’m pleased to have done that and finished fifth.
“I have to thank the team for their all their hard work this past few days. All of us can take away a lot of positives from this weekend.”
Round 2 winner – Jessica Hawkins
“I’m not sure how happy I am, as it’s not sunk in yet. In fact, I’m only just coming to terms with being on the grid for a full season in TCR UK!
“The race went perfectly. I was able to take the lead from the start and then hold onto it. I had a strategy just in case there was a safety car. But being out in front that changed and I was pleased the new plan worked really well. I could see Max (Hart) catching me towards the end of the race but I knew I was quicker in sectors two and three, so I just had to make sure he didn’t get too close in sector one.
“I really must thank FastR, Area Motorsport and all my sponsors who have given me such a fantastic opportunity this year.”
Championship leader – Max Hart
“I’m really pleased with the outcome from this weekend. I was also pleased to have two clean races and the two second places meant I netted a good haul of points and came away leading the championship, so it’s a fantastic start to the season.
“The JamSport Hyundai felt great and with a little more time in the car, there’s even more to come. It’s great to be back in the championship for my second full season, which is all thanks to my sponsors. I’m already looking forward to doing it all again at Donington Park!”