Sussex Motorsports Gears up for Student Motorsport Challenge Entry at Oulton Park

Sussex Motorsports First Racing Experience at Snetterton (Photo: P1 Graphics)

Sussex Motorsports, a team led and crewed by students from the University of Sussex, are firmly on course to the 2024 Student Motorsport Challenge beginning at the Oulton Park rounds in May. The South Coast-based squad partnered with Seismic Motorsport to place a guest entry on the grid for the opening weekend of the BRSCC Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup Championship and driver Colin Dunn drove the team’s #319 Citroen C1 to a trio of top-twenty finishes against the 34-car field.

Sussex Motorsports was launched in late 2023 after Team Principal Shiv Bhagnari met Student Motorsport founder and SMo Challenge series organiser John Paul ‘JP’ Latham at the BRSCC’s ‘Driven by Racing’ event at Silverstone. Initially looking for work experience opportunities, a conversation with JP Latham convinced Bhagnari, currently working in a Supply Chain placement at Stellantis Vauxhall Luton, that he could start his own Challenge team.

Student Motorsport Challenge - Driven By Racing 2023 (Photo: Student Motorsport)

A call to fellow student Nathan Lee, now Deputy Team Principal and Head of Marketing at Sussex Motorsports, led to a decision to set up their own team and the journey towards the 2024 Challenge grid began.

“I was at Silverstone looking for motorsport work experience and I met JP,” said Shiv Bhagnari. “I thought he was running his own team and I said I would like to work for him. JP asked if I would like to run my own team. I thought about it and then I called Nathan.”

Sussex Motorsports - Deputy Team Principal Nathan Lee

Nathan Lee, a life-long motorsport enthusiast after being brought up near Brands Hatch, quickly saw the value in becoming part of the Student Motorsport Challenge paddock.

“Minutes after Shiv had spoken to JP, I got a phone call,” said Nathan. “Shiv explained the conversation he’d had with JP. Shiv and I had become friends through a mutual interest in motorsport so we decided pretty quickly to take the leap, go for it and see where the opportunity could take us. That was about six months ago and now we’re here at Snetterton with a team and a partner to work with.”

Sussex Motorsport Partners - Seismic Motorsports

The motivation behind forming the team was a desire to provide opportunities for Brighton-based students to get motorsport work experience, an area in which Shiv understands the frustrations.

“When I was 15 and attending events at the Dubai Autodrome, I used to go to teams and ask if I could do anything,” he said. “They all rejected me because of my age so for me to provide that platform for people in Brighton, it allows me to fulfil the gap that I had when I was younger and hopefully allow people to gain that experience going forward.”

Sussex Motorsports - Testing at Snetterton April 2024

To launch Sussex Motorsports, Shiv, Nathan and their teammates decided to rent a car from partners Seismic Motorsport and joined forces with Welsh Sports and Saloon Car Championship competitor Colin Dunn to pilot the #319 Citroen.

“JP gave us a list of teams of established CityCar Cup teams to contact and we began to reach out to see what opportunities might be available,” said Nathan Lee. “Seismic Motorsport from the start were really helpful in just giving us advice to begin with and we decided that that was the route to go.

“Currently we’re renting the car and Seismic are providing their knowledge, expertise and support as we gain confidence and experience,” continued Nathan. “They’re also helping with some of the costs, logistics, transportation and storage. This enables us to focus on understanding the project and plan for more involvement next season.”

“Our driver Colin Dunn is an aerospace engineer by profession and so he has been offering his knowledge and advice so we are being very well supported.”

The Seismic Motorsport Citroen C1

Shiv Bhagnari has been very grateful for all the support and guidance that Student Motorsport and series organiser JP Latham have provided in order to get Sussex Motorsports to the point where it can join the Challenge paddock at Oulton Park in May.

“Student Motorsport and JP have provided us with a huge amount of support and have been extremely helpful throughout the entire process,” said Shiv. “They have been a really key element in getting us on the grid and have been extremely receptive to what we needed.

“It’s great to see a championship take such good care of their entries but that’s what they did and they gave us all the guidance we asked for as to what we needed to do. A lot of the crucial elements of our team – the rental agreement with Seismic Motorsport and the connection with Colin our driver, came from a list of contacts that JP provided and had we not connected with Student Motorsport, we wouldn’t have made those connections.”

Andy Lloyd Talks Weekend Action with Challenge Organiser JP Latham - Snetterton April 2024 (Photo: Roger Jenkins)

Much of the preparation in readiness for the team’s appearance as a CityCar Cup guest entry at Snetterton and joining the Challenge grid in May came from material supplied by Student Motorsport.

“Student Motorsport provided us with a huge amount of material that gave us the guidance to get the appropriate equipment,” Shiv continued. “The New Entrants Guide and the Equipment Guide were clear and consistent and covered every element we needed. Supported by many phone meetings and their constant availability for consultations, we had all the support we needed. It was fantastic.” 

JP Latham added, “We’ve worked incredibly hard to support Sussex on their journey to the Challenge. It fills me with an enormous sense of pride that we are seeing another determined group of individuals come together to create a racing team, to compete in professional motorsport.

I’ve been quoted before, but stand by my statement that Student Motorsport and the SMo Challenge exist to allow students and the next generation of motorsport professionals to gain real-world experience in a competitive, track-based environment and I truly believe that we are making a difference that will have a huge effect on the working lives of the students themselves and the teams that they will work for.

Thank you to Shiv and his team for their efforts and contribution to our ever-developing competition.”

Sussex Motorsports Planning

Although not an official University of Sussex entry, the University has been very supportive of the team and have provided resources through their Formula Student programme.

“We’ve spoken to Peter Fussey who leads the University’s Formula Student programme and to David Tucker and they have been more than helpful in terms of giving us advice as to how to set up the team,” said Shiv Bhagnari. “They have also donated tools and equipment so we are more than grateful for all the donations we’ve received from them.

“The University is open to more involvement but they want to see a roadmap as to how our team would fit into their other projects. We are very grateful for all the help they’ve given us so far.”

Sussex Racing

So, what of the future? Where do Shiv and Nathan see Sussex Motorsports in the future?

“Hopefully in the next couple of years, we’d love to see financial stability for the project,” said Shiv. “That’s a big one for us. We want to ensure that the students don’t have to worry and that everything is covered financially and they’ve got what they need. Hopefully when I graduate and return to visit the University in the future, there will be CityCar Cup car with the Student Motorsport livery on it. But really the whole purpose of the team is to open up as many opportunities as we can for Brighton-based students to gain as much real-world motorsport experience as possible.”

For Deputy Team Principal Nathan Lee, growing up near Brands Hatch means that motorsport is in his blood.

“Developing Sussex Motorsports to something that is big and successful is obviously an ambition,” said Nathan. “But we’ll see where it goes. We’ve been very open and adaptable in our planning for this project so wherever it takes us, we will follow!”

Sussex Motorsports intends to enter the Student Motorsport Challenge, based within the BRSCC Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup Championship, from rounds three and four which take place at Oulton Park on Saturday May the 25th.