2022 Student Motorsport Challenge champions Team Northbrook Racing and their driver Richard Jepp completed a trio of class victories at the opening weekend of the BRSCC CityCar Cup Championship at Snetterton.
Five cars were entered into the Student Motorsport Challenge for college and student teams. West Suffolk College were back on the SMo Challenge grid but with a change of driver for 2023. Leon Wilde, who piloted the team’s #38 Toyota Aygo to its first podium finish at Silverstone in 2022, will be focusing on the Team Principal role while Ben Creanor who, last year, piloted the Barracksport entry, takes over the driving duties.
Jack Wheeler was behind the wheel of the #57 East Surrey College Citroen, last year driven by Andy Burgess. Wheeler contested the MSV Trackday Championship in 2022 and is combining his 2023 SMo Challenge campaign with his second season in that championship as he builds his racing CV.
Jeep and TNR set their sights
After an off-season which saw Richard Jepp and TNR work hard to welcome new sponsors and refresh their #65 Peugeot 107, the 2023 SMo Challenge got off to a perfect start with the Portsmouth-based engineering manager taking class pole on Saturday’s 15-minute qualifying session and converting that advantage into three class victories.
Team Northbrook Racing were not just competing for class victories – they also had their sights firmly set on overall podiums which would have been no mean feat given the depth and competitiveness of the BRSCC Nankang Tyres CityCar Cup Championship. That objective eluded them, for this weekend at least, with Jepp bringing the #65 Peugeot home for two overall fourth-place finishes and an overall fifth place for the last SMo Challenge race of the weekend, an engine issue scuppering his chances of the overall podium.
Team Northbrook Racing driver Richard Jepp:
“It’s been a good weekend. We were a bit unfortunate in Race Three – I think we might have had some engine problems on the last lap but it was a good result again, a great result for the team and a great result for the sponsors as well.
“The engine felt a little bit tired so we’ve got a bit of work to do between now and the next round but we’ll do it. I’m delighted to be leaving Snetterton with the lead in the Student Motorsport Challenge.”
Team Northbrook Racing Team Principal Emma Norton:
“This has been a dream start to the season and we couldn’t be happier. It would have been great to have got an overall third place finish but the racing was very exciting. I’m sure we will be challenging for more overall podiums as the season progresses.
“All credit goes to Richard for his driving skill, to the students who have worked really hard through the winter and to the staff back at the college, making sure that everything was in place for the new season. With the results today, they got something they deserved for all the effort.”
Ups and downs for Barracksport
Barracksport endured a frustrating weekend. James Smith’s #49 Citroen suffered consecutive driveshaft failures, resulting in non-finishes in the second and third race. Teammate Duncan Horlor, whose company Acorn Printing Services sponsored the opening weekend, scored two third-place finishes in the first two races but was unable to finish the third race after an off-track excursion following a passing attempt. Harry O’Donoghue’s Oxford-based team will now be working hard to regroup ahead of the next round at Croft.
ESC bounce back from race two DQ
Jack Wheeler, East Surrey College’s new driver for 2023, was pushing hard all weekend. In the opening race, Wheeler made up three places on his qualifying position to finish fourth in class and 15 th overall. In Race Two, the Shoreham-based product engineer went one better to finish on the class podium before a scrutineering issue saw the #57 Citroen removed from the final classification due to a weight infringement. Wheeler made up for the disappointment by finishing third in class in the final race, the first time he had ever stood on a race podium.
East Surrey College Team Principal George Keith: “Jack was distraught about the disqualification and it was a lesson learned for us. However, after Race Three, he was absolutely over the moon. Jack is a great guy to work with and has fitted well into the team. That was his first ever career podium so it’s doubly special as well. Following that result, we’re very much looking forward to the next round.”
Joy for WSC with brace of second places
West Suffolk College enjoyed its best ever race weekend in the Student Motorsport Challenge after recent recruit Ben Creanor brought the teams #38 Toyota Aygo home for a trio of second places. In 2022 the West Suffolk College entry was driven by the college’s Head of Automotive Leon Wilde who, for the new season, has moved into the Team Principal role.
West Suffolk College Team Principal Leon Wilde: “We’re very pleased with the weekend and impressed with Ben, as our driver, and also with our student team. They’ve learned a lot this weekend and they’re taking some things forward for our next race weekend.
“Having moved from the driving seat to the Team Principal role, it’s nice to see the other side of things and observe the car from a different position. With a new driver you get different feedback and a fresh perspective so it’s good that we can learn a little more about the car.
“We have some issues on the car which we need to address before the next round so we’re planning on a track day between now and the next race so we can really learn the car and hopefully help Ben get to the number one spot.”
Student Motorsport’s JP Latham on the Acorn Printing Services opening weekend, team learnings and a growing grid.
Student Motorsport Challenge Series Organiser John Paul ‘JP’ Latham:
“The 2023 Student Motorsport Challenge has enjoyed a fantastic start to the new season at Snetterton. Our grateful thanks go out to Duncan Horlor and Acorn Printing Services for their sponsorship of our opening weekend.
“The SMo Challenge certainly lived up to its title this weekend. It showed, that no matter how much teams prepare, there are always going to be issues and problems that they’re going to have to react to. The Challenge has served its purpose brilliantly so early in the second season because you really can’t simulate such difficulties and a working motorsport environment in the classroom. As seen this weekend, you can’t replicate a driveshaft failure, or a wheel bearing replacement and work to re-prepare a car into the evening hours in the classroom. Whilst crashes are fairly rare and we don’t wish them on anyone, a time-pressured rebuild under the watchful gaze of the public, industry and customer offers the kind of work-readiness preparation you simply cannot beat. All of these are wonderful learning opportunities for the students taking part.
“Congratulations to Team Northbrook Racing and Richard Jepp for their clean sweep of victories. They will certainly be tough opponents for the rest of the season. It was great to see Ben Creanor back on the podium with his new team. Ben will be pushing West Suffolk College hard this year to get him back on to the top of the podium. Congratulations as well to Jack Wheeler for his first well-deserved career podium.
“New teams will be joining the grid for the next round for which we anticipate eight Student Motorsport Challenge entries so more than for any round last year. Some of our drivers are consistently challenging for overall honours as well and it’s really good to contribute to the overall growth and competition of the CityCar Cup Championship.”
The BRSCC CityCar Cup Championship and the Student Motorsport Challenge will once again support the head-turning TCR UK Championship at Croft on May the 6th and 7th.