TCR UK – Rounds 14 & 15
Snetterton 200 – 23rd October 2022
Chris Smiley storms to TCR UK Championship title victory at Snetterton
After winning the first of the day’s two races at Snetterton, Chris Smiley started race two with an eight-point advantage over the only other driver in contention for the title, Isaac Smith. Try as he might, Smith did all he could in race two but lost out to Smiley who brought his Restart Racing Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR across the line in third place and in doing so, secured the 2022 TCR UK Championship title.
Driving his Essex & Kent Motorsport Hyundai Veloster N TCR, Lewis Kent won the second race on a day that saw ever-changing weather conditions that included a combination of flash storms, heavy rain and sunshine.
After 13 previous rounds, it all came down to the final two races at Snetterton on Sunday 23rd October. After competitors’ two dropped scores had been taken into account following the previous two rounds at Donington Park in August and with all results in season’s grand finale having to count, the points table showed seven drivers with a mathematical chance of claiming the title: Chris Smiley, Isaac Smith, Adam Shepherd, Bruce Winfield, Lewis Kent, Alex Ley and Jac Constable.
With Smiley and Smith (Race Car Consultants Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR) tying on 315 and third place Shepherd next-closest with 289, all eyes turned to the two main title aspirants. Indeed, for Shepherd, his opportunity almost slipped away within minutes, when he slid off the road in wet conditions and made contact with the barrier at turn one in the morning’s Free Practice session. Fortunately, the Area Motorsport with Shepherd Motors team were able to fix his Hyundai i30 N TCR in time for Qualifying.
It was clear the wet weather was proving a challenge; for the drivers – who were having to contend with indifferent levels of grip around the 2-mile Snetterton 200 Circuit – and for the teams, who worked hard to find the best set-up given the conditions. After an intense 30 minutes, Smiley signalled his intentions by setting a pole position time over a half-a-second ahead of Ley – who was forced to start from the back of the grid due to an engine change. Ley was in-turn nearly a second ahead of Bradley Hutchinson (Bond-it with MPHR Audi RS3 LMS), the gaps between the cars previously unheard for this season’s TCR UK grid.
However, from fourth to 11th place, normal service was resumed with less than a second separating eight cars. Notably, Smith was fifth-fastest, just behind Bradley Kent (Essex & Kent Hyundai i30 N TCR) in fourth. Unfortunately for Constable (Power Maxed Racing CUPRA TCR), his title challenge came to a close when he retired early in the session, meaning it was now down to six contenders ahead of the first of the 25-minute races.
Round 14 – Race 1
With a heavy downpour just before the start and then conditions easing as car lined up on the grid, proceedings began with two laps behind the safety car and consequently a rolling start. With the clearest view of all, Smiley aced the getaway and by the end of the first lap in race conditions, pulled out a gap of over two seconds ahead of Bradley Kent, Hutchinson and Smith.
Although grip was improving lap-by-lap, the standing water on the outside of the Bomb Hole caught out both the Kent brothers, first Lewis and then Bradley, albeit both were able to continue following an excursion onto the grass. Shepherd was the next title contender to slip out of contention, when he pulled his car off the road and into retirement.
With Bradley Kent retiring a lap later, Hutchinson and Smith were clear to battle for second place and with sixth minutes to go Smith got past and set off in chase of Smiley, who was now eight seconds up the road. The remainder of the race saw the two main contenders trade fastest laps and consequently, that all-important additional point.
Whilst the fastest-lap went the way of Smith, Smiley’s lead was enough to see him record his second victory of the season, crossing the line 5.7 seconds ahead, the two of them now the only drivers in with a shot at the title with eight points between them.
Hutchison held station and finished third, followed by Callum Newsham (Power Maxed Racing CUPRA TCR), Constable, Winfield – who swapped from an Area Motorsport run CUPRA TCR to a Hyundai i30 N TCR for the first time – then Lewis Kent, Darelle Wilson (DW Racing Vauxhall Astra TCR) and Matthew Wilson (JWB Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR ) who rounded off the top ten. Andy Wilmot (Area Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR) scored maximum points in the Goodyear Diamond Trophy for over 40-year-old drivers.
Round 15 – Race 2
Whilst the track was still damp, with no rain for the past two hours conditions were far better for the start of race two than they were for race one. Spicing up the mix, championship regulations dictate that the top ten from the first race are reversed for the second, which meant Smith and Smiley would start from P9 and P 10 respectively. It also meant that Matthew Wilson was on Pole, ahead of Darelle Wilson, Alex Ley (Area Motorsport with Daniel James Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR) and Lewis Kent.
With both Matthew Wilson and Ley on the more slippery right-hand side of the track, Darelle Wilson and Lewis Kent made the most of their traction advantage and led the pack into the first corner, Kent then passing Darelle Wilson to lead the race at turn two. In the meantime, the rest of the field bunched up and whilst Smith was clearly on a mission, Smiley was balancing the choice of keeping out of trouble and not losing too much ground to his main rival.
Knowing he had to put cars between them, Smith continued his charge through the field and by the end of lap three was up to fourth behind Kent, Constable and Ley. Smiley’s plan was to stay in touch and mirrored Smith’s every move, keeping in contention with his rival just one place behind in fifth.
Positions at the front remained the same until half distance, when Smith passed Ley on the inside of Riches corner. In keeping with his plan, Smiley did likewise at Coram, half-a-lap later. With the two title contenders running nose-to-tail and Smith unlikely to catch Constable, who was over five seconds ahead, Smith began to drive tactically and slowed the pace down in order to back-up Smiley into the clutches of Ley, Bradley Kent and Hutchinson, in the hope they might get past the Honda.
But then, with just three minutes of the race remaining, Smith ran wide at Riches, took to the grass and dropped four places. Now with the pressure off, all Smiley had to do was to complete the next two laps, a task he performed without issue to become 2022 TCR UK Champion.
Lewis Kent drove a faultless race to take his second victory of the season from Constable and Smiley. Ley finished fourth ahead of Bradley Kent, Hutchinson and Smith, who crossed the line in seventh place ahead of Winfield who finished eighth and consequently third in the driver standings.
Andy Wilmot (Area Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR) affirmed his 2022 Goodyear Diamond Trophy title in ninth place, as Matthew Wilson completed the top ten. The battle for the Tom Walker Memorial Trophy was won by Smiley, who was also presented with the Sunoco Driver of the Day award.
Smiley now prepares to represent the UK in the Touring Car category at the forthcoming FIA Motorsport Games, which take place at the Circuit Paul Ricard between 26th – 30th October.
Chris Smiley – 2022 TCR UK Champion
“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.
“It’s been an absolutely awesome year and I’ve really enjoyed it. We’ve had some highs and a few lows, but the outcome of today makes everything worthwhile. The Restart Racing guys have done a fabulous job and the car has been great all season. I have to say a big thanks to the whole team, the championship and everyone who has supported us. It feels so good to have achieved what we set out to do this year.”
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 2022 TCR UK Championship is supported by Goodyear, Maximum Networks, Liqui Moly, Corbeau, MaxiCloud Hosted Telephony, Co-ordSport, Berkshire Turbo, Joyce Design, Shepherd Compello Motorsport Insurance, Woya SEO and Sunoco. The Championship is administered by Club Time Attack.