The Year in Review: Circuit

Thursday 28 December 2023

This season has seen Motorsport UK’s many Championships deliver top-class competition and plenty of dramatic action, from the front-runners in the British Touring Car Championship to the flying future stars in British F4.

British Truck Racing Championship

In another blockbuster year for the super-sized series, a capacity entry list served up a feast of entertainment across seven race meetings and culminated in the crowning of two deserving champions in Ryan Smith and Paul Rivett – although the route they each took to their respective titles could not have been more contrasting. As has been the case for the past seven years, Division 1 belonged to Smith as he comfortably powered his Daimler Freightliner to an unprecedented eighth consecutive championship victory. The multiple-champion was a tour-de-force with an incredible 16 race wins, six podiums and six pole positions to finish ahead of David Jenkins and Stuart Oliver. In Division 2, however, there was nothing to separate Paul Rivett and Adam Bint in the battle for honours. In a campaign that saw the pendulum swing back-and-forth between the pair, each ended the season tied on points. Rivett triumphed on a tie-break, with his superior win tally of 18 to Bint’s six, netting the former Renault Clio Cup champion his first truck title. Bradley Smith, Simon Reid, John Powell, Craig Evans, Michael Oliver, and John Bowler also played starring roles over the course of the season.

British Touring Car Championship

Ash Sutton secured a record-equalling fourth title with victory in Race One of the season-finale at Brands Hatch in October. The returning champion, who was last year’s runner-up, took the crown back from Tom Ingram with six poles, 12 victories and 11 fastest laps across the 30-round championship. Ingram put up a strong defence and his two outright wins do not tell the whole story. He was Mr Consistent with 15 further podiums, 22 top-five and 28 top-ten finishes staying on Sutton’s heels all the way. Jake Hill finished third and showed his future intent with victory in the final race of the season, concluding with six wins and 24 top-ten positions. The top three all graduated through the BTCC support package and next season already looks set to be a thriller.

The Intelligent Money British GT Championship

Darren Leung and Dan Harper were crowned champions in a dramatic Donington Park finale after overcoming the odds and chasing down a significant points deficit to overhaul season-long rival James Cottingham. Erik Evans and Matt Cowley achieved a similar feat, winning the final two races to pinch the GT4 crown from long-time leaders Jack Brown and Charles Clark. Six crews were still in with a chance of securing the GT4 championship at the finale where Academy’s Mustang sensationally overturned its 16.5-point deficit and 46-second pitstop handicap – including maximum Compensation Time – to triumph in a typically topsy-turvy decider. That performance was still somehow overshadowed by Harper’s heroics out front, where two Safety Car periods in the opening stint prevented Leung – who took the lead through Craners on lap one – from fully negating his 20 seconds of impending Compensation Time. Championship permutations meant Century’s crew had to finish fifth at worst to have any hope of bridging Cottingham’s 13-point advantage, and that appeared unlikely when Harper re-joined in 13th. However, the BMW factory driver then embarked upon one of the series’ greatest-ever drives, to not only overhaul the 2 Seas Mercedes-AMG – which was subsequently hit with a penalty – but eventually fight through to finish second overall. Five of this year’s nine wins were shared between Cottingham and Jonny Adam – who missed the finale due to clashing commitments elsewhere – and Leung and Harper. Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell clinched their second win of the season at Donington’s finale, while the other two went to Jules Gounon and defending champion Ian Loggie, and John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello.

British Endurance Championship

A close-run finish to this year’s Championship saw just five points cover the overall top three, after six events and 14 hours of competition. In the end, Brad Thurston, in only his second full season of racing, secured the overall and Class C titles with Team Hard in a Porsche 991, driving alongside Radical champion and rising BTCC star Daryl DeLeon, as well as occasional partners Adam Hatfield and Alex Sedgwick during the year. A late-season flurry saw Chris Jones, Neville Jones and Matt George finish as overall runners-up, winning class honours in their Venture Innovations Mercedes GT4, while third overall, went to TCR Class victors Jonathan Beeson and George Heler in the Sheard Autosport Audi RS3.

Amateur driver Peter Erceg, coupled with peripatetic pro-driver Marcus Clutton and one-race stand-in Andrew Bentley, secured the GT3 crown, taking the most overall race wins through the season in their PB Racing Audi R8, and ended fifth overall. Owen Hizzey claimed the Class G crown in the SVG Ginetta G55, with a mid-season change of co-driver from Scott Symons to Marc Elman doing little to hinder his fortunes, while Adam and Callum Thompson lifted the Class F Trophy thanks to vastly improved reliability and performance for their Newbarn Racing Jaguar F-Type.

British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy

Patrick O’Donovan became a two-time back-to-back champion despite missing several rounds this season as he dovetailed his title defence with a European Rallycross campaign. The London-born driver, who swapped his Ford Fiesta for a Peugeot 208 WRX, won every event he entered in the championship and beat two-time winner Jack Thorne to win with a double victory in a spectacular fireworks finale at Lydden Hill. Slawomir Woloch won the Supernational title ahead of Dave Van Beers and Phil Chicken. Tyler McAlpin won the season’s final event to secure his maiden Junior title on count-back ahead of pre-event series leader Will Ovenden. Max Weatherley became Swift Sport champion and Stephen Jones won his second RX150 crown after a battle with Nick Priddy. Dave Bellerby won the BMW Mini category, with last year’s Junior champion Max Langmaid securing the ALL4 title. Lee Wood wrapped up his Super Retro title-winning season with victory in the final round and Tony Lynch topped the table in the Retros.

ROKiT British F4

This was one of the closest and most exciting seasons to date, with 12 different winners and 21 different drivers on the podium during the 30 races. The final round at Brands Hatch saw all three titles come down to the wire for the ninth year in a row. Rodin Carlin driver Louis Sharp was crowned champion after edging Hitech Pulse-Eight’s Will Macintyre by one point in the final round. The duo has been inseparable throughout the season, and they were closely followed by JHR’s Deagen Fairclough in the top three. Chris Dittmann Racing’s Gustav Jonsson claimed top Rookie Cup honours over Gabriel Stilp of Hitech Pulse-Eight, while the Teams Cup was won by Rodin Carlin thanks to 15 victories from drivers Louis Sharp, Dion Gowda, Josh Irfan, and Noah Lisle across the year. The race format included a new complete reverse grid race this season and it proved a big success, providing plenty of overtaking action as well as giving drivers such as Stilp and Gowda and JHR’s Sonny Smith their first F4 wins. Next season is already shaping up to be an exciting one, with the championship continuing to support the British Touring Car Championship at most rounds.

British Drag Racing Championship

Bobby Wallace became the youngest champion since the Pro Modified class began in 2007, driving his US-built Chevrolet Camaro. The 30-year-old’s astonishing title-winning car is powered by a naturally aspirated, petrol-burning, 14.8-litre V8, boosted by nitrous oxide. It is Britain’s quickest Pro Mod at 5.837sec over the quarter mile. Wallace enjoyed a rare streak of success that started back in 2022 at the FIA European Finals and saw him reach the final in six consecutive rounds, winning four. His only defeats came in the FIA/Motorsport UK finals to Sweden’s all-conquering FIA champion Jan Ericsson. The streak ended abruptly in September, however, with first-round exits at both the European and National Finals – but by then, Wallace had the British championship all sewn up. Two racers with little previous success also provided standout performances, with Wayne Nicholson making the final in four of the six events, and France’s Jean Dulamon scoring his maiden Pro Mod victory at the National Finals. Next year there is a vacancy at the top of the European scene, with Jan Ericsson retiring after three consecutive FIA championships. At home, eight-time champion Andy Robinson will aim to rebound from a dismal 2023, and perennial contender Nick Davies is set to return in his Pontiac Firebird – Britain’s fastest Pro Mod at 249.05mph – after a 2023 sabbatical.

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