The Milltek Sport Civic Cup provided plenty of Easter excitement as the 2023 season got under way at Snetterton over the weekend of 8-9 April.
The official feeder category for TCR UK served up its signature action-packed, close racing under the spring sunshine as Dan Thackeray and Jack Harding won the opening rounds of the season.
It was Motion Motorsport’s Dan Thackeray who set the pace in qualifying on the 2.97-mile Snetterton 300 circuit in Norfolk. That was despite mechanical problems restricting his running in Friday testing and preventing him from taking part in the earlier free practice session.
Thackeray’s best lap edged Morgan Bailey by just 0.078 seconds, but Bailey could be satisfied with a front-row start having suffered gearbox problems during the session.
Ben Sharpe Racing’s Jack Harding and Will Redford (Pro Alloys Racing) were also within a quarter of a second of the pole time, while the returning Danny Hobson (Area Motorsport with DH Racing) and 2021 champion Alistair Camp (Pro Alloys Racing) completed the top six.
Round 1 – Race Report
Dan Thackeray converted pole position into the lead of Saturday’s race, with Bailey, Harding and Redford slotting in behind.
The front two immediately looked to break clear and Bailey made his move for the lead at the end of the long Bentley Straight. Taking the outside line for the first part of the esses at Brundle gave the inside for the Nelson right-hander to complete the move.
But Bailey, last year’s championship runner-up, wouldn’t get the chance to fight for victory as he was forced to pull off with a gear-selector issue at the start of lap three of seven.
Thackeray and Harding were closely following and when Thackeray jinked right to avoid Bailey’s slowing car, Harding was caught out. The distraction, combined with a long brake pedal, caused him to run off at the Wilson hairpin and drop down the order.
After those few dramatic moments, Thackeray found himself with a relatively comfortable lead and he was able to manage the remainder of the race to repeat his success from last year’s season-opener.
Redford finished second, 1.4 seconds in arrears, while former Mini Challenge Trophy driver Louie Cappozzoli (Area Motorsport) drove a strong race and avoided trouble to complete the podium on his Milltek Sport Civic Cup debut.
Harding set the fastest lap as he recovered to fourth ahead of Max Edmundson (Area Motorsport), Camp and Harvey Caton. Hobson, Sam Nicolaou and Dan Macdonald (Ben Sharpe Racing) completed the top 10, meaning that the latter pair would start on the front row of the grid for race two.
Round 2 – Race Report
Dan Macdonald converted his maiden pole position into the race lead but was swamped as the pack concertinaed in and out of the Wilson hairpin.
It was Hobson that emerged in front ahead of Edmundson, who had held on to a spectacular slide having been tagged as they approached Wilson. Nicolaou and Caton were also muscled out of the picture on the opening lap as Redford and Harding moved ahead of Macdonald into third and fourth.
Edmundson dived inside team-mate Hobson to take the lead at Wilson on lap two of seven as he set about trying to secure a maiden win. With Hobson struggling for straight-line speed, he gradually dropped down the order and it was Redford and Wilson who were Edmundson’s biggest threats.
Redford made a few attempts to take the lead but each time was rebuffed by a determined Edmundson, and that allowed Harding to snatch second.
With Edmundson having to drive defensively, it meant the top eight cars were in close order, with the constant battling providing a thrilling spectacle.
Harding was applying intense pressure on the race leader and, on the final lap, made his move under the vehicle bridge into Brundle. Edmundson initially tried to hang on around the outside but ended up on the grass, where he cut across to rejoin back in front at the exit of Nelson.
Edmundson continued to take the chequered flag first but was adjudged by the clerk of the course to have gained an unfair advantage. A 1.1s penalty dropped him behind Harding to second, which was still his first Civic Cup podium.
Harding’s win was his first in the Milltek Sport Civic Cup, having joined the championship last year after several successful seasons in rear-wheel-drive machinery, and marks him out as a strong contender for the championship.
Behind them, Redford scored his second podium finish of the weekend, ahead of the closely following Camp and Morgan Bailey, who produced a superb drive from the back of the grid after his race one retirement.
From 10th on the grid, Thackeray avoided trouble to secure seventh ahead of Capozzoli, with Leo Panayiotou and Nicolaou completing the top 10 after Macdonald was handed a 1s penalty for causing a collision.
Further recognition for the efforts of young drivers Capozzoli and Edmundson came with their success in the Paul Winfield Trophy in each race, while Goodyear Diamond Trophy wins, for those aged over 40, went to Mark Hughes in both races.
Round 1 winner, Dan Thackeray
“Morgan [Bailey] and I got a really even start, which I expected, but I made a small mistake onto the back straight, cold tyres, and he got a nice run on me. I think we were quite even – we had a couple of laps of battling and then when I was trying to overtake, he was defending, it let Jack [Harding] catch us up. Not that he needed much invitation – he was very fast!
“I saw him out of the corner of my eye exiting stage left. And I think I had a second back to Redford then and it was a case of just keeping an eye on the gap and managing the gap.”
Round 2 winner, Jack Harding
“I could see Max [Edmundson] was defending very, very hard, and I knew that if I got to him, if I put a move on him, it had to be a proper move and not a little look up the inside of him.
“I got that opportunity and I thought: ‘I’m going to send it on the brakes here, I need to make sure that I’m past him, not alongside him.’
“Ben Sharpe Racing, I couldn’t fault them. The loveliest bunch of people I’ve met, they’re faultless. The hard work they put into the car every single session is unreal and we were by far the quickest this weekend. We can only get stronger; we’ll just learn more about the car and more about each other.”
The Milltek Sport Civic Cup continues for Rounds 3 & 4 of the championship on bank holiday weekend 7-8 May at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire. tickets for this event can be purchased at the following link: https://www.croftcircuit.co.uk/racing/brscc