(Photo: Sam Martin)
Richard Jepp, at the wheel of the #65 Team Northbrook Racing Peugeot 107, took class pole position for the opening round of the 2023 Student Motorsport Challenge Opening Weekend Presented by Acorn Printing Services, the inter-series within the BRSCC Nankang Tyres CityCar Cup Championship. The South Coast-based driver lapped the 2.969 mile Snetterton 300 circuit in 2:36.192.
Second quickest in qualifying was Duncan Horlor, new to the SMo Challenge grid for 2023 and driving the #112 Barracksport Citroen C1, who lapped in 2:37.479.
Completing the top three in qualifying was Ben Creanor, at the wheel of the #38 West Suffolk College Toyota Aygo, who put in a 2:38.346.
Preparation for the opening weekend of the second season of the SMo Challenge threw up some scrutineering challenges as the teams were getting ready for qualifying. West Suffolk College’s #38Toyota Aygo had pressure issues with their on-board fire extinguisher while Team Northbrook Racing, formerly MET Motorsport, also had questions asked about their extinguisher lines.
Harry O’Donoghue’s Barracksport, formerly OBU Student Challenge, were working at pace ahead of the 15-minute qualifying session to change a driveshaft that had caused the Oxford-based team issues during the previous day’s practice session. The team had acquired a replacement part less than an hour before the cars were due on the dummy grid for qualifying and worked quickly, with help from other teams, to get the car ready.
Ben Creanor, having switched to West Suffolk College in the off-season, was quietly pleased with the power that the team’s #38 Toyota Aygo was producing ahead of the 15-minute session.
With three new drivers on the 2023 SMo Challenge grid, two with previous experience, last season’s form-book was, in theory, thrown out of the window. However 2022 class champion Richard Jepp showed he had lost nothing in the off season, setting the early SMo Challenge pace with a 2:38.350 which placed him second on the overall timing screen.
With just over seven minutes remaining, Ben Creanor, at the wheel of the #38 West Suffolk College entry, was second quickest in class with a 2:41.196.
Jepp continued to push, lapping in 2:36.980 on his third lap, to go back to second overall in the CityCar Cip grid. As the minutes ticked down, Duncan Horlor, new to the Student Motorsport Challenge, went second quickest in class with a 2:37.479.
When the chequered flag went out for the end of the 15-minute session, it was Richard Jepp who sat on class pole with Duncan Horlor second quickest in the SMo Challenge class. Ben Creanor in the West Suffolk College entry third quickest. Very creditably for the Challenge, all of the top three qualifiers in class finished in the overall top ten.
Jack Wheeler, new to the SMo Challenge and driving the #57 East Surrey College newly refreshed Citroen C1, finished fourth in class with a 2:40.180 while novice driver James Smith, the tech entrepreneur from Wales, completed the SMo Challenge grid with a 2:45.453 in Barracksport’s second entry, the Grey Sheep Racing Citroen C1.
Student Motorsport Challenge Opening Weekend Sponsored by Acorn Printing Services pole-sitter Richard Jepp was delighted to start the opening round in the overall top three.
“Testing yesterday really helped out,” he said. “This track is a very confidence-driven track. You can only be quick here when you know the limits of the circuit. The track felt a little bit different than it did yesterday and I still feel there’s a little bit of time in it. We’re in a really good position and I’m feeling confident so it’s a good place to be.”
“It’s nice to be up there on the overall grid and great to be at the front of the college teams as well. To be part of the main championship contention is really where we want to be so yes, really happy.”
Barracksport’s Duncan Horlor, returning to racing after a six-year hiatus, was pleased to be second quickest in class, especially given the challenges the team faced in the morning.
“Yes, I’m really happy with that,” said Duncan Horlor. “We did a little test yesterday and the first time the car was on circuit this year was at Donington on Tuesday. Today was looking alright but we had a few issues that the team sorted out overnight. We’ve got a few little set-up changes to finish but we’re really happy with the time, especially after I’ve not raced for six years. The last time I was here was six years so to return in a front-engined car and be close to the front, I’m really happy.”
Race action gets underway at 1.45pm on Saturday with two further 15-minute contests on Sunday.