East Surrey College finishes second after contact forces Andy Burgess out of Race Three.
MET Motorsport, the student race team of the Chichester College group and named Northbrook College, took the inaugural Student Motorsport Challenge title, the inter-series within the 2022 BRSCC Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup Championship, in dramatic fashion at the season finale on the Silverstone International Circuit.
Finishing in second place in the standings, after heading the table for most of the preceding 15 rounds, was the #57 East Surrey College Peugeot in which Aston Martin Product Specialist Andy Burgess had taken eight class victories and a further four podium places leading up to the season finale.
Completing the top three in the standings in the seven-car Student Motorsport Challenge field was the #38 OBU Student Challenge (Oxford Brookes) Citroen C1 piloted by ex-Euro NASCAR driver Ben Creanor. Despite a late entry into the SMo Challenge, the OBU crew had gone on to make history by taking the first overall CityCar Cup Championship win by an SMo Challenge in Race Three at Croft.
The weekend at the home of British motorsport began in cold and damp conditions where four of the teams, including MET Motorsport, had tested at the iconic 1.85-mile Northamptonshire circuit on the Friday. Ahead of the race weekend, Andy Burgess and the East Surrey College squad held a 15-point advantage in the Challenge standings and needed a win and a fourth place to secure the class title.
Qualifying for the expanded 40-car grid saw Richard Jepp reaping the benefit of the Friday testing by putting the #65 Peugeot on the class pole position with Ben Creanor one place and less than a second behind the Portsmouth-based driver. Standings leader Andy Burgess qualified third in class. George Jones in the #9 Coleg Gwent (Newport) Citroen, Leon Wilde in the #26 West Suffolk College Toyota Aygo, Joe Miller in the #25 SHU Karting Citroen and Mark Pope, deputising for Dan Lockett, in the #23 Coleg Gwent (Blaenau) Peugeot completed the class grid positions.
Richard Jepp started from the class pole and an overall sixth place on the grid for Race One and converted that into an overall second place finish and the class victory with Ben Creanor coming in second in class and sixth overall. Andy Burgess finished third in the SMo Challenge class and 12th overall, the #57 East Surrey car a little off the pace in comparison to previous outings.
Joe Miller failed to finish the 20-minute race after an off-track excursion saw the SHU Karting driver stranded in the gravel, bringing out the safety car to allow for safe retrieval.
Richard Jepp’s win closed the gap to ten points to Andy Burgess at the top of the standings and Race Two closed it even further after the top three finished in the same positions. The #65 MET Motorsport Peugeot also got the fastest lap in class after putting in a 1:30.925 on the 12th lap.
Going into the final race of the season, OBU Student Challenge was secure in third place in the standings and unable to challenge for second place while only five points separated the #57 East Surrey entry at the top of the table and the #65 MET Motorsport Peugeot.
The grid for the Race Three was slightly shaken up for the front runners with Richard Jepp starting from fourth overall and Andy Burgess 11th. Jepp got away to a great start and was running in second place overall with Andy Burgess third in class, sufficient to tie the SMo Challenge standings on points and win the title courtesy of a greater number of class wins.
However disaster was to strike the #57 Peugeot at the end of their eighth lap when two cars made contact at the final turn, pushing the #66 Toyota into the East Surrey car, resulting in contact with the pit wall. The safety car was brought out and Richard Jepp cruised home for his third class victory of the day, securing the title by a provisional ten points. Ben Creanor was second and Leon Wilde, at the wheel of the #26 West Suffolk College Toyota, drove to his first class podium finish of the season, a well-deserved result for the team that was the first to commit to the season.
Richard Jepp was delighted to have taken the title but was quick to pay tribute to East Surrey College.
“What a journey it’s been to get here! Thanks to all the team that have put their hard work in all season and thank you to the sponsors that have made it all achievable as well – Harwin and Amigo Customs. Yeah, it’s crazy. It was all down to the last race after all season. Many commiserations to East Surrey for the way it turned out as well. It’s not the best way to end a Championship but they still got P2.
“We’re really happy!”
Richard Jepp was pleased with the pace that MET Motorsport had unlocked in the car.
“Yeah, the pace was really good. I think another lap and I could have won. Elliot Lettis got away at the front and split the tow and I was struggling to get on the back of him. I think he made a couple of mistakes and I got behind him. I was into the tow and I was right on him again by the time the Safety Car came out so I think, given another lap, I was going to start putting moves on him. It’s a shame but I’ll take it!”
For Andy Burgess, it was a deeply unsatisfying end to season in which he had dominated the class in many races.
“I was just trying to keep out of trouble because all I needed to do was to finish which I thought I was doing and then I got hit two or three times by the #66 car,” said Andy Burgess. “It was a bit unnecessary and then I got a real good clout which pushed me slightly wide and then I’m coming onto the start – finish straight and then the #99 has come round and tagged the back of the #66 car and then he’s tagged the back of me. I didn’t hit anybody – they hit me so it’s just annoying.
“The team have been brilliant but I just feel sorry for them really because it would have been a nice win this weekend.”
MET Motorsport Team Principal Emma Norton was delighted for her team.
“It is absolutely awesome to win the title but we’re feeling a bit sorry for East Surrey. They had it in their grasp and unfortunately racing happens like that, doesn’t it? They fell at the last hurdle, as it were, because the Championship was going to be theirs. I’m delighted for our team. I’m delighted for Richard Jepp who has been the most incredible driver for us this year and this is a wonderful payback for all the effort and attention the students have put in all year long and the staff who have travelled around the countryside and done lots of work in the backroom as well.
“I think we learned the trick which was to actually have experience at the tracks beforehand so we started to doing test days so we had lots of familiarity with the track. At the first few races we came along just for the racing so actually being there the day before allowed Richard to get on the pace a lot quicker this weekend.
“We’re absolutely over the moon with the result! It’s fantastic for our team. It’s fantastic for all the teams and for JP (series organiser) and all the efforts that he’s put into this all year long. The Student Motorsport programme is fantastic and I’m delighted for all of our team and the others because it’s a great reward.”
For Ben Creanor and the OBU Student Challenge team, the 2022 season had produced some incredible performances and a trio of second place finishes at Silverstone cemented their third place in the SMo Challenge.
“For the team, it’s a massive achievement,” said Creanor. “They came in at the last minute with no backing from the university that they represent and they are the third-placed team so they have a lot to be proud of.
“I’m quite pleased with the results this weekend. The car’s not really been quite there but the results have been consistent – a sixth and two sevenths overall. It’s not been an amazing weekend but we got good results and the end result in the championship for the team is brilliant because they deserve it more than anyone else.”
For Student Motorsport founder and series organiser John Paul ‘JP’ Latham, the weekend concluded an amazing season for the inaugural Student Motorsport Challenge.
“Firstly, congratulations to MET Motorsport and Richard Jepp but I was very sorry at how East Surrey College’s season finished. George Keith, his team and their driver Andy Burgess have worked so hard this year and to see the final race finish for them as it did was heart breaking.
“To our partners, supporters, all the teams, their team managers, drivers and colleges, I must say a huge thank you for their support. The Student Motorsport Challenge has surpassed all my expectations for its first season and I know that all the team members have gained a huge amount of experience which will be invaluable as they progress their careers.
“Richard Jepp’s driving was impeccable this weekend and he and the team are worthy champions. It was also great to see Leon Wilde take his first Challenge podium of the season – a fitting reward for how hard he and the team have worked.
“There is much news and highlights to come featuring the heart of what the Challenge provides for our students and teams. We are currently planning the 2023 season and I hope we can welcome all our current teams, and new additions to the grid, for the opening round next year.”