(Photo: Roger Jenkins)
East Surrey College’s #57 Citroen C1 piloted by Jack Wheeler took the chequered flag to win the Student Motorsport Challenge class, the inter-series within the BRSCC Nankang Tyre CityCar Cup Championship, in the opening race at Norfolk’s Snetterton 300 circuit. The Shoreham-based manufacturing engineer also secured second overall in the 26-car CityCar Cup field. Wheeler finished less than a second behind race winner Stuart Bliss in the #18 Toyota Aygo and over two seconds ahead of Elliot Lettis in the #3 Peugeot 107.
Second in SMo Challenge class was Richard Jepp, at the wheel of the #65 Team Northbrook Racing Peugeot with the class podium positions completed by Liam Browning in the #91 Boston College Racing Citroen.
The 15-minute race got underway with light rain continuously falling around the 2.97 miles of the Snetterton 300 circuit.
The East Surrey College driver appeared to get away well and had moved up from fourth overall to second on the opening racing lap. Class pole sitter Andy Dyer, meanwhile, fell back from leading the class and finished the four-lap contest fourth in class and eighth overall. Wheeler pushed on until he was challenging for the lead but did not see an opportunity to pass without risking contact and a potential penalty.
“I didn’t get the best of starts to be fair,” said ESC’s Jack Wheeler. “I got quite a bit of wheel spin but I didn’t lose any places as a result of it. It could have been worse!
“One the race had settled down I managed to build a bit of a gap between my car and Elliot Lettis which calmed my nerves a little bit but I was still concentrating hard to avoid any mistakes. I was just trying to keep it on the road in the difficult conditions.
“The opportunity to challenge Stuart (Bliss) for the lead could have been there in the dry but in the wet, I didn’t want to take any chances pushing people off and getting penalties. It wasn’t worth the risk unless we were side by side.
“If conditions turn dryer this weekend, I think we should continue to be competitive.”
For 2022 SMo Challenge champion Richard Jepp, used to standing on the top step of the podium, second place was some reward for the difficulty of racing in the challenging conditions.
“These tyres aren’t built for racing in the rain so it does make it very interesting!” said Richard Jepp. “There’s some adjustment we can make to the rear dampers but there’s not much we can do starting from a dry set-up. It was like driving on ice, to be honest.
“I’m happy with the result but we had a really bad start – I’m not sure what happened. The clutch bit suddenly and I was stood still with the wheels spinning. I dropped down to ninth as a result and I got back up. We’ve got a bit of work to do on the set-up but hopefully it will be good for race two.”
Liam Browning echoed Richard Jepp’s thoughts on the difficulties of racing around a wet Snetterton.
“That race was hard to manage,” said Liam Browning. “The start was mega. I had no wheelspin off the line while everybody else was wheelspinning 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.
“We’re going to make some adjustments, mainly to tyre pressures, and also soften the rear suspension and let’s go again and see what happens.”
Barracksport’s Andy Dyer finished fourth in class on his debut for the Oxford-based team while Arthur Simondet in the #12 QE Motorsports Citroen and Haydn Payne in the West Suffolk College entry finished fifth and sixth in class respectively.
Emilia Vincent in the Wiltshire College Toyota rounded out the Student Motorsport Challenge class, finishing in 14th overall.
Race Two of the Snetterton triple-header gets underway at 17:30 on Saturday July 22.