TCR UK Touring Car Championship – Rounds 5 & 6
Oulton Park Island – 10th June 2023
A win apiece for Bruce Winfield and Carl Boardley strengthened their standing in the TCR UK Touring Car Championship’s 2023 title race in a packed day’s action at Oulton Park on 10 June.
Pole position, fastest lap and Round 5 victory made for a dream start to the day for Winfield, while Boardley bounced back from earlier disappointment to take his maiden TCR UK win in Round 6.
Area Motorsport secured its second qualifying 1-2 of the season as championship leader Bruce Winfield and Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Driver Alex Ley topped the timesheets in their Hyundai i30 Ns.
After not hitting top form in the previous round at Croft, the pair shed compensation weight for Rounds 5 and 6 around the hilly 2.23-mile Oulton Park circuit and found the set-up sweet spot in searingly hot conditions.
Ley was fastest from Winfield when a red flag interrupted the session and made for a five-minute shootout to seek improved times. Winfield did so in style, finding nearly three-tenths to annex pole by a chunky quarter of a second.
Croft winner Jac Constable planted his Rob Boston Racing Audi RS3 LMS on the inside of row two, despite carrying the maximum 40kg of compensation weight. He would start alongside reigning champion Chris Smiley who improved late on to fourth, first time out in Restart Racing’s own Honda Civic Type R FL5 having previously piloted JAS Motorsport’s test and development car.
Area’s Adam Shepherd was fifth in the team’s third i30, hampered by a seized turbo actuator in the closing stages. The top six were completed by Hyundai Customer Racing Junior Driver, Bradley Kent (Essex & Kent Motorsport Hyundai Veloster N).
Local driver Joe Marshall’s RBR Audi was seventh fastest, just edging Callum Newsham (JH Racing Hyundai i30 N) who suffered a burst oil hose before the red flag when on a faster lap.
Carl Boardley was disappointed to qualify ninth in his self-run CUPRA Leon Competición, mystified by a loss of pace as the temperature increased, with Brad Hutchison’s first-generation Bond-It with MPHR Audi RS3 LMS tenth.
Just outside the top 10, Luke Sargeant impressed by qualifying 13th on debut in the Hyundai Elantra N that Area’s driver coach – and TCR superstar – Josh Files had piloted at the season-opener.
Round 5 – Race Report
Following the ever-popular spectator grid walk at lunchtime, the opening race was under the scorching midday sun, making it hard work for man and machine.
Smiley looked to have made the best start from row two, but couldn’t squeeze past the front-row Hyundais as Ley hung on around the outside of Winfield through the opening Old Hall bend to take the lead. The front pair looked in control at the head of the field as the battles raged behind.
Constable passed Smiley at Old Hall on the second lap, delaying Smiley enough for Shepherd to also briefly move ahead, only for Smiley to fight back at the sweeping Cascades corner onto the Lakeside Straight.
Boardley was also making progress, passing Marshall around the outside of the Island hairpin before the safety car was called following contact between the Audis of George Heler and Garry Townsend at the same corner.
Sadly, Newsham had already retired. Forced into a pitlane start after a super-fast replacement of his turbo that had been damaged when the oil line blew, he was quickly sidelined by another oil line failure.
Ley exploited his trademark cold-tyre pace to execute a good restart after the caution period ended, but Winfield soon latched back onto his team-mate. Unbeknown to him, Ley had lost a brake duct and he started struggling to slow the car down. A lock-up at the hairpin on lap 11 of 16 allowed Winfield to pounce into the lead.
As Ley continued to struggle, particularly at the hairpin, Constable closed in. Heading into the final corner of the race, at Lodge, Ley covered the inside line, but that allowed Constable to cut back and snatch second position on the line. Winfield meanwhile was two seconds up the road, taking his second win of the season.
Smiley just held off Boardley for fourth, although two track-limits penalties totalling 15s would demote the latter to 10th in the final result. That handed Marshall sixth, ahead of Hutchison, Jenson Brickley (CUPRA) and Darelle Wilson (Vauxhall Astra).
Brad Kent had been heading for sixth, after getting inside Marshall at the hairpin, until clipping a tyre stack at Knickerbrook. The resulting damage to the Veloster’s front corner pitched him into the gravel and out of the race.
Round 6 – Race Report
A somewhat demoralised Carl Boardley at least had the consolation of starting the reversed-grid finale from pole position in his self-run car supported by Hart GT.
Boardley converted pole into the race lead, while Wilson and Hutchison just held off the fast-starting Brickley before the race was immediately brought under caution. Newsham’s wretched luck had continued as his car again failed on the green-flag lap and the i30 proved not as easy to clear as initially envisaged.
The resumption only lasted until the sixth lap as Ley, running eighth behind Smiley and ahead of Winfield, became the next victim of clipping the Knickerbrook tyre stack.
So the pack remained very close until well into the second half of the race. While the top three were line astern, Marshall got inside Brickley at the Hislops chicane for fourth. Determined to secure a podium at his home circuit, Marshall tried attacking Hutchison on the outside line into the hairpin.
But that let Brickley surge inside and, after some close quarters racing up and over Hill Top, Marshall was tipped into a spin at the Hislops chicane. Smiley was sent across the grass in avoidance, and Shepherd and Winfield pounced to take fifth and sixth positions.
The order among the leaders then remained unchanged as Boardley secured his maiden TCR UK victory. It made up for losing an on-the-road success at Croft to a track-limits offence as well as his disappointment earlier in the day.
Wilson and Hutchison were delighted to secure podium finishes in their older, first-generation machinery, surprising many with the pace they were able to keep. Wilson reckoned that with a better start, a second career victory may even have been possible.
Brickley was fourth ahead of Shepherd, while Winfield set the fastest lap as he closed up to his team-mate. It completed a terrific weekend for the 2021 championship runner-up, who now holds a healthy advantage over Boardley in the points standings. Boardley too extended his margin to the chasing pack of Shepherd, Brickley, Constable and Marshall ahead of Rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the championship at Knockhill in Scotland over 22-23 July.
Smiley finished seventh to keep his points total ticking over while working to reach his new car’s potential, ahead of Constable, Kent and JWB Motorsport’s CUPRA-mounted Matthew Wilson.
Boardley’s success also secured both the Goodyear Diamond Award (for drivers over 40) and Tom Walker Memorial rookie honours in the second race. Boardley had already taken the Goodyear Diamond Award in the first race, where Joe Marshall was the Tom Walker Memorial winner.
Round 5 winner, Bruce Winfield
“I didn’t really know what to expect after Croft but we came here, put a similar set-up on the car that we had at Snetterton, and it was awesome.
“With no compensation weight this weekend, coming out of the hairpin, up and over the hill and then coming out of the chicane and up the hill there, I think that helped, but the heat affects everybody.
“Alex [Ley] is fast. I’m not going to make a stupid move on my own team-mate but under pressure, he ran a little bit wide.”
Round 6 winner, Carl Boardley
“I’m not even thinking about the championship at the minute. All I’m doing is just ‘head down’.
“We’ve made some tweaks to the car and I think moved it forward a little bit from Croft to now. We’ve had to put a load of ballast [compensation weight] in the car and I think that’s hurt us a little bit, but we’ll go to Knockhill a bit lighter hopefully.
“We’ll sit down, work through some things and just try and fine-tune a bit more. I think there’s still plenty to come from the car and I think there’s still plenty to come from me, if I’m honest – it’s only the third meeting I’ve done in the car.”
Next time – Knockhill
The 2023 TCR UK Touring Car Championship is back in action in 6 weeks time, on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd of July, where rounds 7, 8 & 9 will take place at Knockhill circuit in Fife, Scotland.
It will be the first time that TCR UK has competed at the venue since its initial visit back in 2018.
You can purchase tickets for this event at the following link: https://www.tcr-uk.co.uk/2023-calendar/