Croft Report – 6th/7th May 2023

The flags were out at Croft to mark the Coronation

The BRSCC’s North Western Centre made its first of 2 visits this year to Croft over the Coronation Bank Holiday weekend, 6th & 7th May and provided a couple of days of racing action which were fit for any king.

Jac Constable was fastest in TCR UK qualifying

The headline category was the TCR UK Touring Car Championship where qualifying promised a thrilling couple of races. It saw the first 4 covered by a tenth of a second. A mega lap by Jac Constable at the end of the session put his Audi A3 on pole just pipping the Cupra Leon of Carl Boardley.  In third, Bradley Kent felt he could have beaten Constable’s time had his Hyundai Veloster not suffered rear suspension failure on his best lap. The Hyundai i30 of Callum Newsham completed the top 4.

As the field lined up for the first of 2 races, the track was dry but there were a couple of damp patches, including on the pole position side of the start finish straight. This enabled Boardley to take the lead from the outside of the front row. Given his traction disadvantage when leaving the moisture laden pole grid slot, Constable was more than happy to produce a getaway good enough to leave him second at Clervaux.

Lap 3 and Constable had a look down the inside of Broadley at Tower. The leader remained just ahead and exiting the corner he moved across to take the line for the Jim Clark Esses. As Constable was still alongside he had to put two wheels on to the grass to avoid making contact. With the car now unstable, Constable did well to retain his forward momentum. He held on to second place but lost a few lengths.

After this drama, Constable put his head down and reeled the leader back in only to run wide onto the grass at Tower. Thus Boardley took the flag first but received a 5 second track limits penalty which dropped him behind Constable in the final classification. Kent held off Newsham to take third.

The Top Ten were reversed on the grid for race 2 so Alex Ley started from pole in his Hyundai i30 however Brad Hutchinson swept into Clervaux ahead of him in his Audi RS3. At the end of the opening lap, Constable was edged onto the grass at The Hairpin while on the next circuit, Hutchinson ran wide exiting the Chicane. As a result he dropped to third behind Ley and Jenson Brickley (Cupra Leon) before Adam Shepherd pushed him down to fourth at The Hairpin in his Hyundai i30.

Ley struggled with oversteer at Tower which allowed Brickley to pass him exiting the corner and then Shepherd passed Ley at The Hairpin.

Brickley and Shepherd were able to open a gap as Ley kept the rest of the field at bay until the Safety Car was called for and the field bunched up as the yellow flags and Safety Car boards came out. However, the car that triggered the full course caution was able to get moving again so when the leaders returned to the start/finish straight, they were immediately given the green flag as the Safety Car stayed in the pits.

Back under green, Ley slipped further down the order, and found himself sandwiched between Constable and Kent approaching The Complex. Three into one didn’t fit! The resulting damage forced Ley and Kent into the pits. Constable continued, finishing sixth ahead of Newsham and Hutchinson, the early leader.

Despite being forced to allow everyone to catch up, Brickley was driving beautifully and quickly established an advantage of a couple of seconds over Shepherd who was keeping the Audi RS3 of Joe Marshall behind him. Shepherd only found the budget to race at this meeting at the very last minute.

No changes of order in the first 3 occurred as Winfield held off Boardley in fourth after an eventful 25 minutes.

Talking of “eventful”, the first Milltek Sport Civic Cup encounter ended with a flurry of red flags and a number of bent Hondas. Initially, Max Edmundson had broken away from the pack but Will Redford repeatedly pumped in fastest laps to catch the leader.

Edmundson began driving defensively which allowed Ryan Bensley and Jack Harding to close in making it four for the lead.

On what would have been the penultimate lap, Edmundson and Redford were side by side pretty much all the way round the circuit before they made contact at The Hairpin where Bensley picked his way through the chaos to take the lead. Redford then went off at the exit of The Chicane at which point the red flags came out. Bensley was declared the winner from Harding and Morgan Bailey while Edmundson was later excluded from the results.

The next time the Civics took to the tarmac, the spoils went to Dan Thackery who started third on a partially reversed grid. He was pushed to the limit in the closing stages by Harvey Caton. In third was Alistair Camp who passed Bailey with a couple of laps to go.

In the first of two Fiesta Junior encounters, Rashan Tyler Chigorimbo was the early leader in his Mk6 and was able to pull out a gap of a few lengths when Ben Mulryan (Mk7) and Ronnie Smith (Mk6) went side by side through the Jim Clark Esses.

However, this lead was wiped out almost immediately due to the appearance of the Safety Car to allow the marshals the opportunity to clear away a couple of Fiestas that had crashed at Hawthorn.

After the restart, Mulryan was all over the back bumper of Chigorimbo who started taking defensive lines which resulted in 7 cars battling for the lead. Mulryan got ahead at Tower but Chigorimbo immediately retook him.

Mulryan wasn’t deterred, he dived down the inside at Sunny In and the pair continued neck and neck all the way to the entry of The Complex where Mulryan decided the outside line he was on wouldn’t yield results and so he ducked back behind Chigorimbo. However, in doing so, he clipped the back bumper of the leader. As Chigorimbo ran wide due to the impact, Mulryan and Smith pushed him down to third.

Then it was the last lap and Mulryan was able to pull out a little breathing space over Smith to take the first overall Fiesta Junior win for the Mk7 model.

Chigorimbo had more bad luck later in the day when the young Ford drivers returned for their second thrash. Dan Lewis made a blinder of a start to lead into Clervaux where Chigorimbo was tapped into a spin which caused a train reaction that ended with one car upside down in the gravel and another on its side plus many other dented Fiestas. After the track was cleared the remaining cars had a 10 minute restart with Mulryan leading the way from Lewis, Smith and Jacob Hodgkiss. That was still the order when the red flags came out again with less than a minute on the clock after a car came to rest in a dangerous position.

The CityCars prepare for action

Elliott Lettis and Stuart Bliss were the men to watch in the trio of Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup rounds. Bliss was fastest in qualifying and was the early leader of the first contest but Lettis closed in to pass him round the outside entering The Complex on lap 4. He kept Bliss at bay until the end. Richard Jepp held off Chris MacKenzie to claim third and was the leading Student Motorsport Challenge car.

The finishing order was the same next time out when proceedings were brought to a close slightly early because a car was on its side at The Complex. Jepp’s engine was cutting out but he still completed the overall podium.

The grid for race 3 was drawn at random and Lettis couldn’t go wrong this weekend as he came out of the hat on pole. He already had a comfortable lead by the time Tower was reached. His regular sparring partner, Bliss, didn’t fare so well. He was drawn in the middle of the pack and spun exiting The Chicane. He re-joined and battled up the order to ninth.

Dominic Fletcher ran second throughout while Bradley Porter held third initially but MacKenzie overtook him at Hawthorn with a few minutes remaining.

Jepp once more was uncatchable in the Student Motorsport Challenge section of the contest, he followed Porter home in fifth overall.

There was a multitude of marvellous Mazda MX5 racing at Croft

There were 3 categories for the Mazda MX5 this weekend. In the SuperCup, Aiden Hills won on the road at the first time of asking having passed Patrick Fletcher at the Jim Clark Esses on lap 4 however he received a 10 second penalty for jumping the start. This dropped him to fourth behind Fletcher, Ali Bray and James Cossins.

The second race was halted after a couple of laps when George Grant crashed heavily into the tyre wall at the entrance to The Complex. Initially, everyone was concerned for his welfare however he was back out competing later in the day.

Fletcher selected fifth instead of third gear as the field charged away from the restart allowing Hills to move into the lead where he remained until the end. Bray held off Will Blackwell-Chambers to take third.

Hills started eighth for the final encounter as it featured a partially reversed grid. He loves a challenge however and he thoroughly enjoyed working his way up the order to take his second victory of the weekend. Blackwell-Chambers grabbed second place on the last lap with a daring pass which saw him run side by side through the Jim Clark Esses with Cossins. The latter was frustrated because his tyres had gone off.

Steve Foden continued his winning ways in the first GAZ Shocks Mazda MX5 Championship contest of the weekend. He passed the early leader, Adam Sparrow, at Tower on lap 2. He remained out front until the end despite his tyres deteriorating. Sparrow dropped to fifth behind Tom Smith, Jack Noller and Jason Greaterex.

Foden won again in race 2, he took the lead at the start and eased away as Noller defended from Sparrow. The latter squeezed up the inside of Noller at Barcroft on lap 2 and set off in pursuit of the leader. Once he caught him, and Foden started to defend, Noller and Jason Greaterex closed in to make it 4 for the lead.

As the race drew to a close, Foden pulled away while Greaterex engineered a pass on Noller which began at the entry to The Complex and ended in front of the pits to move up to third behind Foden and Sparrow.

In the final encounter, it was Sparrow’s turn to take the spoils after he took the lead into the first corner when Foden hesitated away from the grid. After a couple of laps, Greaterex passed Foden to take second at Tower. As the race unfolded, Greaterex put Sparrow under enormous pressure but every time his passing manoeuvre failed, Foden and Noller were there looking to annex second.

Eventually, Foden got through Greaterex’s defences exiting Barcroft and briefly challenged for the lead but Sparrow had everything under control to take the win.

The Downforce Radio Mazda MX5 Clubman Championship had 2 races on Saturday with the first of these taking place immediately after qualifying. A trial of oil left at Sunny In gave the drivers plenty to think about. Paul Bateman had taken the lead when the lights went out but a cautious approach through the cement dust meant he was ambushed at Sunny Out and dropped to fourth.

Harry Dean was the new leader but Bateman was on a charge, taking Matthew Fletcher the third time the field tackled Tower. The oil slick now became Bateman’s friend as it caught out both of the cars ahead of him on successive laps – first Dean and then Jon Pethick. This put Bateman in position to win the race ahead of Fletcher, Pethick and Dean.

At the start of the second encounter, Matthew Fletcher jumped into the lead from the outside of the front row and then, exiting Hawthorns, Bateman was turned sharp right. He jammed on the brakes and somehow stopped before hitting the barriers. This put him out of contention to repeat his earlier victory, he finished eleventh.

Up front, Fletcher led from start to finish but Pethick put him under pressure and even pulled alongside on a couple of occasions. Meanwhile, a clutch problem which manifested itself in the Assembly Area prevented third placed Dean from challenging the lead pair.

The BRSCC North Western Centre wishes to thank all marshals and officials for their excellent work in ensuring all races took place despite the large number of incidents which triggered red flags.

Dave Williams

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