(Photo: Sam Martin)
The Student Motorsport Challenge, the inter-series within the BRSCC CityCar Cup Championship, visited Snetterton for the second time in 2023 with rounds 10, 11 and 12 on the iconic 300 circuit.
The Student Motorsport Challenge was sponsored by The Motorsports School. Owned by multiple championship winner and ARDS Vice Chairman Pete Edwards, The Motorsports School provides ARDS Race Licence, Junior and Advances ARDS courses alongside track day, race, and instructor training. The Motorsports School operates from Mallory Park and Lydden Hill.
Student Motorsport and The Motorsport School have come together to introduce extended driver and team training as part of the SMo Challenge’s longer-term aim of ‘doing motorsport better.’ Together with Student Motorsport, The Motorsport School will be providing an extended drivers briefing for Challenge drivers, in addition to the BRSCC briefing. The Motorsport School will also be offering a prize of an extended driver and team training day which includes the opportunity to drive and analyse both the race car and the driver at one of their UK venues.
“The Motorsports School is delighted to team up with Student Motorsport within the CityCar Cup,” said owners Melanie and Pete Edwards. “Since its introduction in 2022, we can see that the Student Motorsport Challenge has developed significantly. We are proud to be part of the SMo Challenge and supporting their ongoing opportunities for the Challenge teams and drivers.”
“Over the coming weeks and months, we will be working with SMo teams to develop their drivers track-driving skills, techniques and etiquette and we will be focusing on many different areas that no one else does.
“We will aim to support the team that needs it most with our sponsored prize. Together with Student Motorsport we will judge the winner over the weekend and make a choice and announcement in due course.
“Driven by our shared passion for the sport, our mission is to keep motorsport fun, improve standards and support everyone to meet a minimum industry standard.”
Going into the Snetterton rounds, Team Northbrook Racing’s Richard Jepp had been unbeaten in every round but one, the Shoreham-based driver having broken his streak at the final round at Anglesey. East Surrey College’s Jack Wheeler took his maiden win in the SMo Challenge in Round 9.
For the Snetterton rounds, the Challenge was joined by a new driver with Andy Dyer taking over the driving duties in the #11 Barracksport Citroen C1 after Duncan Horlor had stepped down to focus his attention on his son’s karting career. Dyer had competed in the BRSCC Nankang Tyres CityCar Cup since its inception in 2021 and finished second in the overall standings last season.
Missing from the Snetterton grid were Coleg Gwent and Menai Motorsports, both teams having scheduling clashes that prevented their attendance in Norfolk. Also missing was the #49 Barracksport GSR entry, driven by James Smith. Smith had endured a significant incident at Anglesey and delays in getting the required parts for the rebuild meant that the #49 car was side-lined for Snetterton.
Race one of the Snetterton triple-header saw the class victory go to East Surrey College and Jack Wheeler with Richard Jepp’s TNR entry finishing second in class. The final podium position went to Liam Browning in the #91 Boston College Racing Citroen. Rain, which was to be a significant factor across the weekend, was falling as the 15-minute contest got underway.
Barracksport’s Andy Dyer led the class field away from pole position but issues with the set-up of the #11 car meant that Dyer fell back from the class lead. Wheeler held on in the damp conditions to take his second class win and his first overall podium finish, taking the chequered flag less than a second behind overall winner Stuart Bliss in the #18 Toyota. Richard Jepp overcame a difficult start to finish second in class while Boston College Racing’s Liam Browning secured third.
“That race was hard to manage,” said Liam Browning. “The start was mega. I had no wheelspin off the line while everybody else was wheel-spinning and I got past about three or four cars as a result. After that, it was all about just hanging on. The car had been set up for dry conditions and had we softened the settings, we could have kept second in class but that race was great.”
Dyer finished fourth after starting from the class pole while QE Motorsports, West Suffolk College and Wiltshire College and University Centre completed the remaining places.
Race Two began under atrocious conditions with rain covering the entirety of the 2.97-mile Snetterton 300 circuit. East Surrey College’s Wheeler got away to a flying start and moved into the overall lead going into turn one before Stuart Bliss in the #18 Toyota passed Wheeler for the lead on the exit from Corum. Wheeler kept in touch with Bliss before Elliot Lettis drew up to the leading pair and passed the East Surrey College driver, demoting the #57 to third.
The red flag was shown shortly afterwards due to an incident and countback meant that Wheeler regained his overall second place finish. Richard Jepp finished second in class and the final podium position was taken by Andy Dyer, an improved wet-weather set-up on the Barracksport car making #11 entry more competitive.
Conditions for Sunday’s third race were expected to be much improved from Saturday, with most teams opting to switch to a dry set-up. However, with the approach of the race start, the rain returned and the teams of students led by their team principals scrambled to put a wet set-up back on their cars, many working until the last minute in the assembly area. Although unwelcome, the challenges of the weather offered valuable real-life experience to the learners which could not have been replicated in the classroom or workshop.
Team Northbrook Racing’s Richard Jepp started from class pole after the top ten starters were rearranged for the final race but it was Andy Dyer who had found the set-up sweet spot in his #11 Barracksport Citroen. Dyer passed Jepp for the class lead and went on to finish on the overall podium for the first time since returning in 2023, ahead of Jepp who finished in second. Jack Wheeler finished third in class with Browning, Payne, Simondet and Vincent finishing fourth to seventh respectively in the SMo Challenge class.
The provisional results in the Student Motorsport Challenge after rounds nine, ten and eleven show Team Northbrook Racing leading the class on 232 points, 61 points ahead of East Surrey College who now move to second in the standings, ahead of Barracksport. West Suffolk College are 21 points behind Barracksport in fourth place while QE Motorsports and Arthur Simondet maintain their fifth place.
Emile Vincent and Wiltshire College remain in sixth place on 104 points with Boston College Racing moving into seventh place on 86 points. Coleg Gwent, Barracksport GSR and Menai Motorsports complete the SMo Challenge points table.
For Team Northbrook Racing, new challengers have meant that the team’s, and Richard Jepp’s, dominance of the top step of the Challenge podium may have come to an end for the moment. Three second-place finishes in class at Snetterton, however, mean that TNR still head the points standings by a considerable margin and it will take sustained success by the chasing teams, and a degree of misfortune on the part of South Coase-based team, to topple the #65 car from its Challenge lead.
“There’s some good racing going on now!” said Richard Jepp. “The wet weather does level everything out as well. We had the pace to take the class win in the third race and, with one more lap, I would have been past Andy Dyer, I think. It’s good to see some battles in the pack but we’re now looking forward to Brands Hatch and seeing what we can do there.”
“A huge thanks goes to the TNR team who had a lot of work to do since Anglesey after we received a substantial amount of damage during rounds 7, 8 and 9. They all put in extra hours to get the car ready and I was glad to repay them with some good results.”
TNR Team Technical Manager Mark Stafford echoed Richard Jepp’s thoughts.
“Prior to Anglesey, we decided the engine required replacing as the original had already done a full season,” said Mark Stafford. “The motorsports students of Northbrook College worked closely together to source and rebuild a low mileage engine and get it fitted in time for the previous rounds. There was no time to test the engine but it proved very strong.
“At Snetterton Richard Jepp reported a slight loss of power so the students worked together using their training and skills to test various sensors in between races to see what could be done to find the problem. Ultimately, we believed the problem to be a fuel delivery issue. A suitable solution was found and we were delighted to secure three second place finishes over the weekend.
“Further changes are planned and testing is scheduled before we visit our home circuit of Brands Hatch where we hope to increase our lead in the points.”
George Keith’s East Surrey College squad are now seeing the results of their work with Jack Wheeler with a car that can compete for overall podiums as well as success in class. Moving into second in the class standings was the team’s objective for Snetterton and, with that achieved, their sights are now turned on Brands Hatch, a track that Jack Wheeler has considerable experience at.
“The shaken-up grid in Race Three didn’t do us any favours but the goal was to get in the top three for the Student Motorsport Challenge which we did,” said Jack Wheeler. “It would have been nice to have been a bit further up the grid but we’re happy with the results overall this weekend.
“We’re looking forward to Brands Hatch which is a circuit I have driven a lot so I’m hoping for good results but I guess we’ll have to see!”
Oxford-based Barracksport were delighted at how their weekend progressed after going in the wrong direction with the set-up of their #11 Citroen for the opening race. Driver Andy Dyer was delighted at how the weekend progressed after the car was analysed and changes made by the team’s engineers.
“Race three was really interesting,” said Dyer. “I had a bit of a mechanical issue in the race as well which didn’t help so when Richard was catching me, I knew the pressure was on so I just had to keep him behind. But it was a good race. I had a mega start and I thought I was going to keep up with Stuart Bliss but once the mechanical issue began, I knew it wasn’t going to happen but overall I was really happy.”
“Barracksport and I have worked together really well this weekend. We’ve come up with some ideas and they were, literally in the last seconds before race three, getting a wet set-up back on the car for the rain and the car was just perfect – bang on. The car handled just the way it should. The first race result was my fault. I went a bit different with the set-up and it didn’t work in the rain. The second race we nailed it and the third race we absolutely nailed it!
“Hopefully I will be doing the rest of the season with Barracksport.”
West Suffolk College continued their run of consistency with Haydn Payne finishing all three races in challenging conditions, an excellent result for a novice driver. The team now provisionally sit fourth in the standings and only 21 points behind Barracksport.
“The weekend has been good,” said Haydn Payne. “I’ve just been trying to get experience in wet conditions and trying to keep it on the circuit as everybody else went off. It was good fun!
“I’ve never been to Brands Hatch so hopefully we can test there before the race weekend in August.”
QE Motorsports took on the challenges of the weather at Snetterton and driver Arthur Simondet was delighted at the progress the team had made since its debut at Croft, despite some challenging races.
“It was a definitely a more challenging weekend than I would have liked,” said Simondet. “The team worked really hard to get the car back together after an incident in race two and we started race three in P23 at the back of the pack. The rain started pouring down ten minutes before race start so we made a very quick set-up change in the assembly area to go back to a full wet set up on the dampers and then just hoped for the best. The race was a fight for 15 minutes to make up as many positions in lap one and, when the race settled in, it was about finding that one or two extra positions. So from P23 to P15? We’ll take that!”
“The team has made great progress from its debut at Croft when I think everyone was trying to find their roles. It was the first race weekend for the team and you’ve got to remember they’re not university students and there’s a huge learning curve for them.”
The experience of Wiltshire College’s Emilia Vincent grows with every round and another trio of race finishes, including two fifth-place in class, meant that the Castle Combe-based team remains in sixth place in the class standings, 20 points behind QE Motorsports.
“It all got a little bit close at the start of race three,” said Emilia Vincent. “I think I got tapped from behind but it was very slippery conditions so I’m not blaming anybody. The damage meant we couldn’t catch anyone so I drove the best I could.”
“But I’m really pleased at the progress we’re making. The team has done a sterling job all weekend, our confidence is growing, teamwork is growing and we’re always improving so it’s brilliant.
“Brands is another track to learn and my head’s pretty full at the moment but we’re really looking forward to it!”
For Boston College Racing, three completed rounds at Snetterton ensured a solid points haul with driver Liam Browning securing his second class podium finish. Lee Crisp’s squad now move to a provisional seventh place in the class standings. Browning’s experience with CityCars combined with the team’s enthusiasm and well-organised management means that we can expect to see further competitive results when the Challenge reaches Brands Hatch in August.
For series organiser and Student Motorsport founder John Paul ‘JP’ Latham, Snetterton continued to develop the real-world learning experiences for learners participating in the Student Motorsport Challenge.
“I’d like to take this opportunity, as we reach the halfway point of our second season, to thank the BRSCC wholeheartedly for their ongoing support and enthusiasm towards our endeavours. We were welcome as part of the CityCar Cup in 2022 and are grateful for the opportunity and the warm reception by all of their competitors.
“Despite the changing weather, which really is a first for the Challenge, Snetterton proved to be another valuable and rewarding weekend for the teams, further validating the ‘realism’ we hoped the series would provide our participants,” said JP Latham. “Firstly, I must thank Melanie and Peter Edwards and the whole team at The Motorsports School for their involvement in the Challenge and their presence at the weekend. The experience they can pass on, and the further learning opportunities that The Motorsports School can offer, will be invaluable to our learners and their drivers.
“In addition to the racing, we were able to offer our learners the chance to attend the drivers briefing for the Supersports Endurance race and be present in the team’s garages during the race, to focus on their pitstops and the activities that took place. This was a great opportunity to see how a professional race team operates and I would like to offer our grateful thanks to the BRSCC and to all the teams for welcoming us. I was thrilled to see two learners from every team grab this opportunity and take part. The learners very much enjoyed experience!”
“This weekend we saw new Challenge winners and podium finishers which was both wonderful to see and illustrates that, with dedication, a wide range of teams can achieve podium success. To have four of the top six finishers for the second race coming from the Student Motorsport Challenge grid shows just how much progress the teams are making in terms of pace and reliability.
“Like many of the teams, we can’t believe that we are four weekends in with Brands Hatch up next and more Challenges for our superb teams!”
The BRSCC Nankang Tyres CityCar Cup Championship grid, including the Student Motorsport Challenge, next assembles at Brands Hatch on August 13th – 15th for rounds 13, 14 and 15.