Milltek Sport Civic Cup – Rounds 3 & 4
Croft – 6th & 7th May 2023
The Milltek Sport Civic Cup travelled to North Yorkshire for Rounds 3 & 4 of its 2023 season over the Coronation bank holiday weekend, 6-7 May.
Two typically dramatic races from the official feeder series to TCR UK brought wins for Ryan Bensley and Dan Thackeray.
Max Edmundson carried over his blistering pace from the season-opener at Snetterton to top the timesheets around Croft’s challenging 2.1-mile layout. The Area Motorsport driver banged in a quick early lap and was content to sit in the pits while others attempted to improve after a red flag interruption.
Edmundson’s fellow young gun Will Redford (Pro Alloys Racing) was second fastest, just a tenth of a second slower. Area duo Danny Hobson and Sam Kirkpatrick – the one-time MG Trophy champion making his debut as a guest – completed the top four.
Redford’s team-mate Ryan Bensley, running a new engine after his problems at Snetterton, was fifth ahead of Jack Harding. Ben Sharpe Racing driver Harding was one of a number of fancied runners, including Morgan Bailey (ninth) and Snetterton winner Dan Thackeray (12th) who were puzzled by a lack of anticipated pace after bolting on new tyres for the session.
Round 3 – Race Report
Edmundson converted his pole position into the race lead, followed by Redford, Hobson and Harding as the pack safely negotiated Croft’s challenging opening sequence of corners.
At the end of the first lap, Hobson ran into the back of Redford under braking for the hairpin, which allowed Bensley to sneak through on the inside for third place. Hobson then suffered some further side-by-side contact as Harding muscled through into fourth at Clervaux.
Out front, Edmundson and Redford were pulling clear, with the Pro Alloys driver looking to put pressure on his Area Motorsport counterpart. With Edmundson starting to take more defensive lines, Redford managed to squeeze inside into the first corner at Clervaux, only for Edmundson to execute a cut-back into the lead through the following Hawthorn.
With the pair running side by side towards the tight chicane, Redford ran across the escape road but lifted off to let Edmundson back alongside as they approached the right-hander at Tower. There, Redford got a better exit, and the pair ran side by side once more through the super-fast Jim Clark Esses.
Their mirror-bashing squabble allowed Bensley, Harding, Morgan and Kirkpatrick to close up as they approached the hairpin. As they converged through the very tight left-hander, contact was almost inevitable, and Bensley’s approach of sticking tight to the inside paid off as he emerged in front.
The tightly-packed bunch then charged on down the home straight and through the next lap’s opening sequence of corners. Exiting the chicane, damage to Redford’s steering pitched him wide and he was unable to wrestle the car back on track. It ploughed heavily into the barriers, bringing out red flags and an early conclusion to the race.
The standard countback rules put Edmundson back to the head of the order but, after having a maiden win taken away at Snetterton, the local driver was to be denied again. He was excluded by the clerk of the course for his part in the various incidents.
It meant that Bensley, who had been leading on track at the time of the stoppage anyway, was promoted back to victory. It was a satisfying result for the experienced racer who had steered clear of trouble and was delighted that the new engine had allowed him to eliminate any creeping doubts over his own pace.
Harding, the championship leader entering the event, was classified second ahead of Bailey, the duo both finding more pace via some set-up tweaks and reverting to their previous tyres. Kirkpatrick achieved a fine fourth on his debut, his eyes opened by the ultra-competitive racing action that the Milltek Sport Civic Cup is known for.
Harvey Carton and Louie Capozzoli completed the top six ahead of 2021 champion Alistair Camp, who found his car lacking in low-end grunt. Thackeray, Hobson and Pro Alloys driver Alex Kite completed the top 10.
Round 4 – Race Report
Reversing the top 10 from Saturday’s race result put Kite and Hobson on the front row of the grid for Sunday’s rematch. Hobson was quietly confident of his chances but had his hopes dashed when his car’s ECU played up in the assembly area, making him a non-starter.
With only one car head of him now, Thackeray made a blistering start in his Motion Motorsport car to take the lead before Kite got shuffled back further, ending the first lap in fifth. Caton meanwhile was on a charge, having got inside Camp at Tower, to run second. Bailey also made the most of the opening skirmishes as he and Camp contested third.
Thackeray’s initial gap was quickly eroded by the flying Caton before being wiped out completely when a safety car was required to move Jackson White’s retired car to a safer spot.
After racing resumed, Caton made a move on the inside of Tower to take the lead on the seventh of what would be nine laps. But Thackeray immediately fought back and, as the pair went side by side through the Jim Clark Esses, Caton ran wide and relinquished the advantage.
In his haste to make up lost ground, Caton touched the grass exiting the hairpin and slipped further back. But such was his blistering pace he quickly closed back up to the leader. Under pressure from Caton, Thackeray ran slightly wide at the complex but just held on to take his second win of the season after a fine defensive drive.
Caton could be pleased with his best result in second, while Camp dived inside Morgan at the hairpin to secure third on the penultimate lap. Harding and Bensley kept their points totals ticking over nicely with fifth and sixth positions, with Kirkpatrick seventh.
From the back of the grid, Edmundson had driven a terrific race to climb into the top 10 but sadly undid his work with an overly robust move on Kite for eighth. His resulting penalty dropped Edmundson to 18th, behind Kite in the order, on what had become another challenging weekend for the hard-charger.
Dave Marshall, Redford and returnee David Buky therefore completed the top 10. Redford had switched to Pro Alloys’ spare car, albeit with his own engine, rather than hastily repair his own chassis. With its set-up not optimised, and conscious of it not being his own car, Redford drove a cautious race on his way through from the back of the grid to a top-10 finish.
Goodyear Diamond Trophy honours, for drivers aged over 40, were taken in both races by Mark Hughes’s FN2-shape Civic. In the Paul Winfield Trophy, for drivers without Milltek Sport Civic Cup podiums in the previous two seasons, Harvey Caton’s performances were further rewarded by twice topping the order.
Round 3 winner, Ryan Bensley
“It’s been a long time coming! Big thanks to the team, Pro Alloys, my Dad, Emily my mechanic, James who builds my gearboxes, and Josh Cook who is my driver coach this year – we have been working really hard together.
“But we’ve still got work to do. I was thinking during the race I just need a bit more pace to get near Will Redford’s pace, so lots more testing before Oulton Park.
“I started to lose my tyres half way through the race. I didn’t really make any mistakes and even though Will just drove off into the distance, I didn’t fluster. But me and Jack Harding, I could tell we were thinking the same thing – we knew that as we started catching the boys at the front it was going to kick off.
“We didn’t have the outright pace but, as a team, I think we earned it.”
Round 4 winner, Dan Thackeray
“When I got in the lead I knew I wasn’t exactly going to be disappearing into the sunset. Even when I had a slight gap to Harvey Caton, he would close me down so fast, so I was having to defend for my life.
“He made an unbelievable move, caught me by surprise. A nice switchback. But I just had enough of an overlap coming out of the corner to go side by side through the Esses. I know he is a fair racer as well so I wasn’t too worried and I just had enough to keep the lead.”
Next time – Oulton Park Island
The Milltek Sport Civic Cup is back in action in in 4 weeks time, all in one day on Saturday 10th June, where rounds 5 & 6 will take place at Oulton Park in Cheshire, using the Island layout.
Tickets for this event can be purchased at the following link: https://www.oultonpark.co.uk/2023/june/tcr