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“2023 has been a great second season for the Student Motorsport Challenge!” – Series organiser JP Latham reviews the year and discusses future developments

The 2023 Student Motorsport Challenge, part of the BRSCC Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup Championship, is currently looking forward to its season finale at Silverstone on October the 7th and 8th at the end of its second year of racing. EnduranceandGT editor Andy Lloyd sat down with series founder and organiser John Paul ‘JP’ Latham to look back over the season and hear JP’s thoughts on the evolution and development of the UK’s only student-focused track-based motorsport series.

AL: Looking back over another fantastic year of competition in the Student Motorsport Challenge, what memories stand out for you from the 2023 season?

JP: “I think the general growth of the Challenge is the stand-out memory for me. It’s been a great feeling to see the Challenge grow from five cars at the opening round to consistently having between seven and ten cars on the grid. To see new teams join the Challenge and work hard to become competitive and to then reap the rewards of that work with podiums, both in class and overall, has been very gratifying.

“But looking back over the season, there have been so many special memories that it’s difficult to pick some over others. Jack Wheeler getting to grips with the East Surrey College Citroen to take five class wins was very special. Emilia Vincent was our first female driver in the Challenge and her podium finish at Brands Hatch was an emotional moment for us all as was Wiltshire College and University Centre fighting back at Donington to get their car out for the final race.

“It was great to see Menai Motorsports out on track at Anglesey after all the challenges they faced in getting their car ready. To see QE Motorsports, a team where the team members are all of school age, take a class podium at their first weekend at Croft was incredible. The consistency of Emma Norton’s Team Northbrook Racing and Richard Jepp in rarely finishing off the podium in face of increased competition set a standard that is hard to beat.

Boston College Racing driver Liam Browning. (Photo: Sam Martin)

“So it’s very difficult to select favourite moments because there were so many. However, I have to say that the professionalism, determination and sheer hard work of Lee Crisp’s Boston College Racing is hard to beat as my stand-out memory. The team, and their driver Liam Browning, entered the Challenge at Anglesey and although they’ve had their disappointments such as the accident damage at Brands Hatch, their focus and dedication resulted in two Challenge wins at Donington. That was a very special weekend for me.”

Catherine Haken – Pebble Agency (L), JP Latham – Student Motorsport founder (C), Leon Wilde – previously driver and team manager for West Suffolk College. (Photo: Sam Martin)

What evolutions were introduced to the Student Motorsport Challenge in 2023 and how were they received?

“Probably the biggest evolution for 2023 was the introduction of partners to support the Challenge each month with a focus on value to the partner and the training opportunity for the learners. I must say a huge thank you to The Motorsports School, Acorn Printing Services, Rocked-!T, 3D 360, PBS Brakes, Visual PR and, for Silverstone, iManage Performance for their support. I want to also thank Garage 23 for their logistics and travel support. We’ve been quick to keep the partners fresh, exciting and offering even more learning opportunities for the students.

“Our paddock operation has improved in 2023 and the Student Motorsport Challenge paddock is seen as well-organised, efficient and presenting a professional image for all the teams.

“Finally, our media coverage has been amazing and I must thank Tom Pledger from TNR, Sam Martin from Barracksport, Roger Jenkins and you, Andy, for leading the team to promote our message to the public at large.”

The relationship with the BRSCC has been critical in developing the Challenge. How has that relationship developed during the Challenge’s second season?

“The relationship with the BRSCC has been nothing short of incredible. I trod carefully during in 2022 to avoid the risk of the Challenge being seen to ‘hi-jack’ the BRSCC Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup Championship but the BRSCC has been nothing but welcoming, supportive and encouraging towards us. The relationship with the BRSCC has never been stronger.

“The BRSCC has gone above and beyond to accommodate our teams, students, paddock and the training that we offer. They’ve got involved in introducing partners, talking to our teams and giving our students an insight into various different areas of a race meeting so I couldn’t be more pleased as to how the relationship has developed.”

Lyndsay Close – BRSCC Series Coordinator for the Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup Championship – congratulating Emilia Vincent, driver of the #174 Wiltshire College and University Centre Toyota on her first Challenge podium at Brands Hatch. (Photo: Sam Martin)

You’ve already touched on race weekend sponsors. How have they impacted the students taking part in the Challenge?

“While Student Motorsport needs sponsors and partners to support the organisation, it’s worked out really nicely that our weekend sponsors have come on board to add value to the product we are offering the teams. It’s not about the Challenge itself necessarily getting funds, it’s the teams that need support and, in doing so, the Student Motorsport Challenge moves on as well.

“We’ve been really focused on supporting our teams and that’s made the learning opportunities grow naturally.”

How are you looking to develop the Challenge in 2024?

“Well, we’re aiming for a double-figure grid again. We had ten entries for Anglesey and we should see that number at Silverstone so growth in the size of the grid is important.

“I’d also like to see different types of educators entering the Challenge such as those teaching T Levels or those organisations who work to get people into work or training. I want to encourage more females into the sport as either drivers or team members. Emilia Vincent has led the way for female drivers and we have a number of female team members and I want to grow that demographic.

Race Three podium at Brands Hatch. Haydn Payne (L), Richard Jepp (C) and Emilia Vincent (R), the first female driver in the Challenge to finish in the top three. (Photo: Sam Martin)

“I’m looking for overall title partnerships to add further strength to what we can do for our teams and we are looking to develop the training and opportunities that the Challenge provides throughout the season. As a result, there will be an increased focus on activities away from the circuit.

“After the season ends, we’ll be talking to all the teams to get feedback on how the Challenge can be improved. I’d like to introduce more awards as well so we’ll be looking at a number of areas to evolve and develop.

“2023 has been a fantastic second season for the Student Motorsport Challenge and the management team will be working hard in the off-season to build on that success to offer an even more inviting proposition for next year!”

The final weekend of the 2023 Student Motorsport Challenge takes place on the Silverstone International circuit on October the 7th and 8th.