Richard Jepp and Team Northbrook Racing dominated the Student Motorsport Challenge class, part of the BRSCC Nankang Tyres CityCar Cup Championship, when the Challenge visited Croft Circuit for rounds four, five and six over the Coronation weekend sponsored by Rocked-!T Motorsport Luggage. The Portsmouth-based driver repeated the results of his team’s previous outing by taking class victories in all three contests at the North Yorkshire circuit.
The Student Motorsport Challenge at Croft was sponsored by Rocked-!T motorsport luggage who provided one of their market-leading kit bags as a prize for the team who could produce the most creative piece of social media marketing for the company throughout the weekend.
TNR at the sharp end. But can they be sharper still?
The 2023 season start for TNR, previously MET Motorsport, is in stark contrast to the challenge’s Emma Norton’s squad faced twelve months ago when the team had to source a new chassis after contact with the barrier at the opening weekend at Oulton Park.
Richard Jepp held a comfortable competitive advantage over his fellow seven Student Motorsport Challenge entries throughout the weekend and took the extra point for fastest lap in class over all three races. Despite a niggling engine problem which has troubled the team since the opening rounds at Snetterton four weeks ago, the Brighton-based squad qualified the #65 Peugeot second on the overall grid and finished on the overall podium twice over the weekend.
With a year’s experience behind them and the momentum from winning the Student Motorsport Challenge in 2022, TNR are now a functioning race team with team members that are engaged and fully aware of how to manage a successful weekend. Team Northbrook Racing now lead the provisional SMo Challenge overall standings by 49 points from West Suffolk College.
WSC prove toughness of these cars - and the students
Leon Wilde was back in the driving seat for West Suffolk College in its #38 Toyota Aygo. Wilde, who had not raced since the 2022 season finale at Silverstone, qualified the car sixth in the class for the opening race and made up a class position to finish fifth in the opening 15-minute contest. Race Two did not go entirely to plan with the college’s current Head of Automotive putting the #38 car on its side in the closing minutes of the race, bringing out the red flag. Wilde exited the car unscathed and medical checks at the circuit gave him a clean bill of health to compete in Race Three.
Miraculously, although the West Suffolk College Toyota sustained damage, it was able to take the start for the final CityCar Cup race of the weekend, evidence, if it was needed, of the toughness and durability of these little racing machines. A seventh-place finish in Race Three meant that West Suffolk College left Croft provisionally third in the SMo Challenge standings.
Croft was the last competitive outing for Leon Wilde as the he moves on to take up a new position and develop his career. His confidence as a driver, having never raced before the start of the 2022 season, and the way he recovered from a frightening off-track moment in Race Two, was testament to the excellence of the BRSCC CityCar Cup Championship as a training ground for those new to motorsport. The team is gelling well and the students are looking forward to repairing the #38 car and moving on with the season under new guidance.
Barracksport and GSR show improvements
Harry O’Donoghue’s Barracksport, one of the best managed teams in the Challenge paddock, was determined to bounce back from their disappointments at the opening weekend of the season. The team’s #11 entry still bore some scars from Snetterton but Duncan Horlor pushed hard and qualified the red Citroen third in class for Race One and finished the weekend with a trio of podiums, including two second-place finishes.
Duncan Horlor’s points tally moved the #11 Barracksport car into a provisional second place in the Challenge standings.
James Smith, at the wheel of the Oxford-based team’s second entry, the #49 Barracksport GSR Citroen, had set his objectives as three race finishes at Croft after mechanical difficulties saw the tech entrepreneur fail to take the chequered flag on two occasions at Snetterton. Smith achieved his goal with three solid races including his best finish in class of sixth in the final race. Smith, and the #49 Barracksport GSR entry, now lie fifth in the class standings.
Barracksport was effectively supporting three cars over the Coronation weekend as they had a team member working on Student Motorsport Brand Ambassador James Harvey’s Porsche Boxster at Thruxton in addition to their two-car Student Motorsport Challenge entry.
A headline debut for Queen Ethelburga's Collegiate
Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, racing under the name of QE Motorsports, were making their Student Motorsport Challenge debut at Croft and immediately showed their intention of competing for class honours. Texas-raised and now London-based driver Arthur Simondet, although technically a novice in UK racing, dug deep into his experiences of racing Spec Miatas (Mazda MX5s) in the US to qualify the #12 QE Motorsports’ Citroen fourth in class. Race One saw Simondet survive the opening lap chaos at Clervaux to drive to an untroubled second-in-class finish. In the remaining two races, Simondet took two fourth place finishes.
Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate left Croft having put some 45 points in class on the board and will go into the next race weekend seventh in the Challenge standings.
WCUC show their class on debut
Wiltshire College & University Centre also made their Challenge debut at Croft and the squad immediately showed their Castle Combe pedigree with a well-prepared paddock presence. Emilia Vincent was behind the wheel of the silver-and-green #174 Toyota Aygo and brought her experience of the team’s home circuit Hot Hatch series to bear by qualifying seventh in class, just seven-tenths of a second behind West Suffolk College’s Leon Wilde.
Vincent drove three trouble-free races, resulting in two sixth-place finishes. WCUC left Croft with 34 points but, most importantly, the experience of their first full weekend of competition in a national series.
A strong return for Newport's Coleg Gwent
Coleg Gwent Newport re-joined the Student Motor Challenge for the Croft weekend, having missed the opening three rounds at Croft. George Jones returned to driving duties in the team’s smartly presented red-and-white #9 Citroen and drew on his experience from 2022 to qualify the #9 car fourth in class. A fourth-in-class finish in Race One followed by two fifth-place finishes meant that Coleg Gwent Newport left North Yorkshire seventh in the Challenge standings.
The team was also active in developing their media skills over the weekend with entries into the Rocked-!T-sponsored marketing challenge.
ESC in the mix for 'best of the rest' behind TNR
East Surrey College was looking to build on the momentum gained at the opening weekend of the SMo Challenge at Snetterton where Jack Wheeler, driving the team’s #57 Citroen , finished the weekend on the class podium after disappointment in Race Two. At Croft, the Shoreham-based driver was looking to use his experience in the Trackday Championship to score consistent top three-in-class finishes but the first lap chaos in Race One saw Wheeler unable to take the re-start. However, the team went on to finish third in class in Race Two and go one better in the final contest.
Jack Wheeler is gelling well with the team and the engagement between driver and the students is clearly paying dividends in car preparation and results.
George Keith’s East Surrey College now lie 4th in the class standings, 14 points behind West Suffolk College.
TNR boss Emma Norton on form and the growing SMo paddock
Team Northbrook Racing team principal Emma Norton was delighted, not only at TNR’s results but also at the growth in the Student Motorsport paddock.
“We are thrilled to have taken the championship spoils three times again this weekend and for our driver Richard Jepp to have been rewarded with two overall podium finishes, despite a few engine niggles,” said Emma Norton. “A huge well done to all the staff and students from Northbrook College for such a great set of results as well as to our fantastic driver Richard Jepp.
“The addition of new teams and drivers to the Challenge paddock has added much to the excitement and interest for students. We were relieved and delighted that Leon Wilde and West Suffolk College recovered so well after their incident in Race Two, getting their car and driver safely back on track.”
Organiser JP Latham's views on an amazing weekend
Student Motorsport founder Challenge Organiser John Paul ‘JP’ Latham said:
“It was wonderful to see the Student Motorsport Challenge grid growing at Croft and to see the effort that Wiltshire College and Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate had put in getting their cars built and prepared for racing. Seeing students and pupils who have never been involved in a national race series before learning new skills and building their confidence in and around the paddock is exactly why the Challenge was set up.
“I must thank Rocked-!T for their sponsorship of the weekend and the competition that they set for student teams to develop their social media marketing skills. Motorsport is more than just preparing a car to race. Equally as important are the other skills of marketing, promotion, logistics and management and we are very grateful to Rocked-!T for their support.
“I would also like to thank Garage 23 who have been supporting the Challenge this season with our logistics and trackside hospitality.
“Congratulations to Emma Norton’s Team Northbrook Racing and Richard Jepp for a second clean-sweep of class victories. The orange #65 Peugeot is currently the car to beat in the SMo Challenge class but I am sure that, as teams develop, TNR will have some stiff competition as the season progresses.
“As the season progresses, we look forward to welcoming more new teams to the grid at Anglesey for rounds seven, eight and nine and seeing the SMO Challenge continue to grow.”
The BRSCC Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup Championship, incorporating the Student Motorsport Challenge, next meets at Anglesey on June 23rd to 25th.