The TCR UK Touring Car Championship’s summer season kicks into gear with Rounds 5 & 6 of 2023 at the beautiful Oulton Park Island circuit this Saturday (10 June). The 23-car entry includes a trio of new drivers and 11 different models of car from six manufacturers as the ever-growing TCR category provides all the ingredients for close, multi-marque tin-top action.
A mainstay on the TCR UK calendar, the Cheshire parkland circuit was the scene of reigning champion Chris Smiley’s debut victory last year, albeit on the slightly longer International layout. Restart Racing driver Smiley will be looking to repeat that success, now in a Honda Civic Type R FL5, to kickstart his title defence, after suffering from niggling issues at Croft last month. Team-mate Scott Sumpton, part of Honda partner JAS Motorsport’s driver development programme, will be aiming to lift his older FK7 model into the top 10.
Bruce Winfield continues to lead the way in this year’s standings after a fine start to the season. Despite facing set-up issues and being saddled with compensation weight aboard his Area Motorsport Hyundai i30 N, Winfield scored two strong race results at Croft to keep his score ticking over nicely.
It was the same scenario for team-mate Adam Shepherd, who has risen to fifth in the standings. Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Driver Alex Ley, on the other hand, will be keen to bounce back from a tough weekend which dropped him to sixth in the points. But all three Area i30 Ns will benefit from carrying less compensation weight this weekend after falling short of the ultimate qualifying pace at Croft.
Completing Area Motorsport’s line-up is an exciting return for the Hyundai Elantra N in which Luke Sargeant will make his TCR UK debut after gaining the necessary licence upgrade. The car flew in international star driver Josh Files’s hands at the Snetterton season-opener and now has a new engine fitted after its blow-up there. With Files on hand in a coaching role, Sargeant will take the next step in his fledgling racing career.
Hunting Winfield down at the top of the championship is Carl Boardley, whose CUPRA Leon Competición is run by his own CBM squad with support from Hart GT. Unfortunate to lose a maiden TCR victory to a track limits penalty at Croft, Boardley’s second and fifth positions continued his run of top-six finishes which have marked out the experienced tin-top campaigner as a genuine championship challenger. The flipside of his strong Croft pace is that Boardley will have to lug around maximum compensation weight at Oulton Park.
Jenson Brickley claimed his first win last time out. Brickley is also CUPRA-mounted, his Leon Competición being run by his Jenson Brickley Racing outfit which boasts the vast experience of ace engineer Mark Hunt. Brickley has four wins from four races at Oulton Park in his title-winning campaigns in support categories so clearly has an affinity with its challenging contours. He will also benefit from 20kg less compensation weight than Boardley.
Rob Boston Racing duo Jac Constable and Joe Marshall unleashed the potential of their Audi RS3 LMS Gen II machinery at Croft. Constable won the opening race from pole position, while Marshall claimed a maiden podium finish which lifted him to third in the points standings. It was on the Oulton Park Island circuit two years ago that Constable took his first TCR win, and Marshall too has gone well there in his Ginetta GT4 Supercup days. So, proving they can overcome the impact of maximum compensation weight, expect both to be on the top of their games this weekend.
Also in the Audi camp is teenager Oliver Cottam, who broke into the top 10 at Croft. Alongside Cottam, Paul Sheard Racing will be running its British Endurance Championship drivers George Heler and Jonathan Beeson on the team’s home circuit this weekend. Heler will be in a similar Gen II RS3, while Beeson will pilot a Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Meanwhile, Bond It with MPHR’s Brad Hutchison has been the king of consistency with four consecutive top-10 finishes so far this season in his older Gen I-spec Audi. Hutchison’s team-mate Steve Gales switches to CUPRA machinery for the first time this weekend.
JH Racing runner Callum Newsham was in fine form at Croft last month. He qualified his Hyundai i30 N fourth, then took fourth and seventh positions in the races. The son of BTCC race winner Dave Newsham will look to build on that momentum and set his sights on a first podium finish of the season this weekend – but will have to do so while carrying maximum compensation weight.
Regular frontrunner Bradley Kent seems unable to shake off his bad luck so far this season. A podium finisher at Croft, Kent then got turfed out of the second race. Once the Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Driver stops breaking mirrors or walking under ladders, his Essex & Kent Motorsport Hyundai Veloster N is sure to be challenging for victories again.
TCR UK’s trip to Cheshire is packed into a single day with all the action taking place on Saturday 10 June. There is an early start for free practice at 0830hrs, with qualifying then scheduled for 1035hrs. The afternoon’s first race at 1325hrs will be preceded by the ever-popular public grid walk. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get up close to the cars and have selfies with the drivers. The reversed-grid second race completes the action and is scheduled to start at 1615hrs.
Qualifying and both races will be streamed live and can be accessed via TCR UK’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/@tcrukseries
To find out more about the TCR UK Touring Car Championship visit https://www.tcr-uk.co.uk/ for more info and how to get involved.