The Student Motorsport Challenge, now in its second season, will see a record grid of eight cars competing when the inter-series within the BRSCC Nankang Tyres CityCar Cup Championship visits Croft Circuit near Dalton-on-Tees in North Yorkshire on May 6th and 7th.
The opening three rounds at Snetterton in April saw a clean-sweep of victories for Team Northbrook Racing and its driver Richard Jepp. TNR’s success means that the South Coast-based team lead the SMo Challenge standings on 63 points, an advantage of 12 points over second-placed West Suffolk College who took three second-placed finishes last time out with Ben Creanor.
For rounds four, five and six at Croft, two teams will be making their SMo Challenge debut to bring the total Challenge grid to eight cars.
Queen Ethelburga's Collegiate - the first sixth form college debut
Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate from York join the Challenge and will be campaigning its Citroen C1 under the leadership of team manager Matthew Clayton. Texan-born but London-based driver Arthur Simondet has joined the team for the full season. Simondet, a Senior Analyst in Shipping Operations for an American liquified natural gas company, has had previous racing experience in the Spec Miata series in the US as well as in motorcycle racing. With a commitment to compete in the C1 Endurance Championship in 2023, Simondet will be looking develop his experience in the Citroen C1 as well as learn unfamiliar UK circuits.
“I committed myself to racing C1 Endurance and I was still missing a few circuits for my 2023 season plan,” said Simondet. “CityCar Cup races at those circuits and it was also an opportunity to remain with the car that I’m committed to drive elsewhere.
“I reached out to the series coordinator to look for arrive-and-drive opportunities and I was put in touch with JP Latham (Student Motorsport Challenge series organiser). After discussions with JP and a series of conversations with schools, I reached an agreement with Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate for the season.”
Simondet is looking forward to working with the school and offering his talents and experience to help Queen Ethelburga’s develop its motorsport education programme within the SMo Challenge.
“It’s a unique background for them because it’s a school we’re talking about with a different age group of students from the rest of the paddock. For them, it’s an interesting opportunity because not only are they going to get the opportunity to participate and be very ‘hands-on’ but they will also have the opportunity to network with their older counterparts. I think they can benefit pretty massively from that exposure.”
Wiltshire College reveal Toyota Aygo and driver Emilia Vincent
Also making its SMo Challenge debut on the 3.42km Croft Circuit will be Wiltshire College, led by Ethan Walsh and David Campion. The college, which offers degree courses in motorsport engineering from its Castle Combe centre, has the only trackside facility for higher education motorsport engineering in the country. The 6,500 square-foot centre includes two classrooms, a seven-car workshop and an engine and machine workshop.
Piloting the #174 Wiltshire College Toyota Aygo will be college alumnus Emilia Vincent. The Ginetta engineer and retail specialist has previously competed in the Castle Combe Hot Hatch series in 2021 and 2022.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for myself, the team and all the students to develop their experience from club events and compete in a national championship,” said Emilia Vincent. “We’re ready to learn and it’s going to be a big learning curve for everyone.
“I’ve watched many CityCar Cup Championship races and I’m really intrigued by it. I like the driving style and the fact that it’s really close racing. It’s also a friendly series as well which are the two things that I look for within a series; close racing and a friendly paddock.”
Welcome return to Coleg Gwent Newport and George Jones
Battles and developments resumes for teams
Team Northbrook Racing and Richard Jepp will be looking to maintain their run of form following their three class victories last time out at Snetterton, which not only means they lead the SMo Challenge standings but also lie fourth in the overall standings, no mean achievement in only their second full season.
Barracksport will be looking for a consistent weekend after challenges beset the Oxford-based team last time out at Snetterton. Duncan Horlor in the #11 Barracksport Citroen took two class podiums before contact resulted in a DNF in Round Three. Mechanical issues also frustrated Harry O’Donoghue’s squad’s second entry, the #49 Barracksport GSR Citroen driven by tech entrepreneur James Smith and a fifth in class in Round One was the team’s sole result for the #49 car from the weekend. Barracksport, formerly OBU Student Challenge, were highly competitive in 2022 and we can expect to the squad bounce back at Croft this weekend.
George Keith’s East Surrey College will be contesting only their second weekend with driver Jack Wheeler but the Shoreham-based engineer will have learned from his Snetterton weekend where he finished third in class in Round Three. Wheeler will be looking for consistent podium finishes in North Yorkshire.
West Suffolk College, led by team principal Leon Wilde, took a trio of second-place finishes in class last time out at Snetterton with ex-OBU Student Challenge pilot Ben Creanor behind the wheel. For Croft, Leon Wilde returns for driving duties and, after his first podium finish in class at Silverstone in the 2022 season finale, will be looking to build on that experience to keep the #38 Toyota in the hunt for class honours this weekend.
SMo Challenge boss JP Latham expects even bigger grids
For Student Motorsport founder and SMo Challenge series organiser John Paul ‘JP’ Latham, to assemble the largest grid of Challenge competitors at Croft, with the promise of even bigger grids as the season progresses, is proof that the concept of student-manned teams is a success and that the Challenge has a bright future.
“I am delighted that the SMo Challenge will be welcoming two new teams to the paddock for Croft this weekend for our biggest grid since the Challenge was launched in 2022,” said JP Latham. “The fact that Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate is a team manned by sixth-form students is testament to how the Challenge is providing the kind of learning opportunities and real-world challenges that will stand these young motorsport professionals in very good stead as they look to choose their higher education options and future career paths.
“It is also great to welcome our first international driver in Arthur Simondet and I hope he enjoys the friendly paddock and spirited competition that the SMo Challenge offers.
“Wiltshire College is well known for the quality of its motorsport courses and teaching facilities and it is an honour that they have chosen the Student Motorsport Challenge as their first national championship. Emilia Vincent’s experience round the fast and technically challenging Castle Combe circuit will be hugely beneficial as we visit some of the UK’s most iconic circuits as the season progresses.”
Catch the action
Track action for rounds four, five and six of the 2023 BRSCC Nankang Tyres CityCar Cup Championship gets underway with qualifying at 10.20 on Saturday May 6th. The lights go out for the Round Four at 14:25 later in the afternoon with two further 15-minute contests on Sunday May 7th. Live action from the weekend will be streamed on the BRSCC YouTube channel.