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Monday, February 26, 2024

How a former BTCC pedaller recaptured his pleasure of racing in TCR

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“It’s relit my fireplace for motorsport once more,” displays Carl Boardley after profitable the TCR UK title at his first try final season in a self-entered Cupra Leon Competicion.

Following 4 years within the British Touring Automotive Championship, Boardley spent 2022 largely on the sidelines, demoralised by a tough 2021 marketing campaign. A experience alongside title winner Ash Sutton within the Infiniti line-up had promised a lot however didn’t ship. It took a swap to the burgeoning TCR UK collection to revitalise the Suffolk racer and ship his first championship success since an ultra-successful Nationwide Scorching Rod profession.

A protracted and assorted path for the 48-year-old, who has defied docs’ expectations and battled sick well being, started within the non-contact brief oval formulation of Inventory Rods as a teen, after rising up watching from the terraces of Ipswich’s Foxhall Stadium. Average success adopted, earlier than Boardley made his mark in Nationwide Scorching Rods. Inside a 12 months of his debut, Boardley had certified for his first World Last and completed fourth. He went on to win an unprecedented 4 consecutive world championships over 2006-09, and was already eyeing his subsequent step.

He was tempted onto Rockingham’s 1.5-mile oval for some 2007 ASCAR rounds, however any plans for a full-time swap have been halted when the collection folded. However, by 2010, it was time to attempt the Pickups collection of Sonny Howard, whose automobiles he raced in his early NHR days. Engine failures blighted Boardley’s Rockingham debut. However, weeks earlier than his brief oval farewell – which ended with a puncture whereas main the 2010 World Last – Boardley burst onto the circuit racing scene with a fantastic exhibiting at Mallory Park. It was his first race weekend involving proper turns.

“My plan was to knock the Scorching Rod on the pinnacle and simply to do 4 or 5 [Pickup] rounds a 12 months at Rockingham,” he remembers. “We acquired a brand new engine completed, and Sonny was doing a spherical at Mallory Park. Then on the Thursday, Sonny rung me up and mentioned, ‘I’ve acquired a little bit of unhealthy information for you.’”

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Mallory’s oval was now not licensed, forcing a swap to the complete circuit. Extremely, Boardley received the second race.

“It was like, ‘It’s not likely what I used to be planning on doing, however this circuit lark is all proper,’” he laughs. Two additional Pickups seasons introduced six extra wins.

Picture by: Mick Walker

The brief oval ace burst onto the circuits with Mallory win in Pickups

“The brief ovals are the place I realized my racecraft from, and that transferred over fairly properly,” Boardley reckons. “After which the engineering aspect, OK, the circuit stuff is a bit of bit completely different in what it is advisable to make the automobile do however, basically, the information that I gained from Sonny after which doing our personal issues latterly gave me platform.”

A largely washed-out December 2012 check in Speedworks’ Toyota Avensis gave Boardley a style of touring automobiles however “to be trustworthy, at the moment, the BTCC was too huge a step for me and the place I used to be at”. As an alternative he tackled the Ginetta GT Supercup, becoming a member of JHR Developments – contemporary from working Tom Ingram to the title – for 12 months two earlier than sickness intervened.

“I’d been identified with a bowel situation and, in the beginning of 2014, it simply acquired maintain of me,” Boardley admits. “So I did the primary assembly at Manufacturers with JHR and I shouldn’t have as a result of I’d solely been discharged from hospital about three days earlier than. Three or 4 days after Manufacturers I acquired taken again into hospital.”

“Jason Plato was behind us and there was the tiniest, tiniest little hole and I’ve shut the door, and Jason’s simply actually, ‘No, you’re not having that.’ I needed to collect the automobile up and was off on the grass. That was my ‘welcome to touring automobiles’ second” Carl Boardley

Many of the subsequent 18 months have been spent on the sidelines as Boardley confronted a collection of main operations: “I acquired instructed on the time by the surgeon that I wouldn’t truly be capable of race a automobile ever once more. That’s most likely what fuelled the fireplace to attempt to get again.”

Finally cleared to return, Boardley took wins in 2016 and 2017, whereas a possible BTCC swap in a Workforce Laborious Volkswagen Passat was deferred for one ultimate 12 months in Ginettas. Six wins and second within the championship left Boardley prepared for what proved to be a troublesome BTCC commencement, his first 12 months of front-wheel-drive racing since his Inventory Rod days.

“It was a baptism of fireplace,” he remembers. “I wasn’t below any phantasm as to the problem of the duty of adapting to it. I feel quite a lot of it was that the Passat simply was an outdated automobile, it wasn’t engineered that nicely on the time, and it was a correct handful to wrestle spherical.

“I keep in mind my second race at Manufacturers. Jason Plato was behind us and there was the tiniest, tiniest little hole and I’ve shut the door, and Jason’s simply actually, ‘No, you’re not having that.’ I needed to collect the automobile up and was off on the grass. That was my ‘welcome to touring automobiles’ second. Nothing untoward, however that’s what it’s like at that stage.”

Boardley's first season in the BTCC with Hard's Passat in 2019 was a bruising affair

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Boardley’s first season within the BTCC with Laborious’s Passat in 2019 was a bruising affair

For 2020, Boardley acquired a WSR-built BMW 125i M Sport – sister automobile to Colin Turkington’s 2018 title winner. The COVID-delayed season finally started in August with Boardley’s trusted engineer stranded in Belarus. Fortunately, Energy Maxed Racing’s sabbatical freed up Martin Broadhurst. Boardley progressed up the grid, however racing behind closed doorways wasn’t the BTCC expertise he envisaged: “It virtually felt like each session was a check session.”

Sutton received that 12 months’s title in an Infiniti Q50 – a automobile Boardley had the chance to pilot in 2021. However it will be a irritating season.

“I suppose I acquired bought the dream of it’s going to be a three-car Laser Instruments Racing group,” Boardley explains, “however my automobile was at all times completed at Workforce Laborious, whereas the opposite two automobiles have been completed by BMR Engineering.”

A promising begin shortly unravelled: “Trying again on it now, that’s most likely one huge remorse for me, that I didn’t make investments a bit extra time and useful resource into attempting to actually benefit from that 2021 season. Finally, what occurred acquired to me that a lot that for ’22 I knocked racing on the pinnacle.”

A substitute look in his {old} automobile at Croft fell by, however Boardley sampled Workforce Laborious’s newest machine within the season finale. “The plan was to do Manufacturers GP, discover out what the Cupra was like, after which doubtlessly race in 2023,” explains Boardley, however a first-race conflict ruined his weekend. “It was very disappointing, however I suppose not wholly sudden.”

Fearing that Laborious’s already stretched sources can be unfold too thin by a plan to run extra automobiles, Boardley walked away. Then a name from fellow BTCC refugee Stewart Traces, now the promoter of TCR UK, despatched him in one other path.

Following a visit to final 12 months’s Autosport International to take a look at the class, Boardley purchased a TCR model of the Cupra. Former BTCC engineer Malcolm Cleland’s Zest Racecar Engineering squad got here on board to run the automobile, however the relationship fractured at a tough opening weekend. Boardley then joined forces with the Hart GT operation of Nick Hart, with whom he’d labored in Ginettas. Solely a track-limits penalty denied him a maiden victory at Croft: “It was good to have the ability to show that we might do the enterprise in a front-wheel-drive touring automobile.”


Boardley claimed his first circuit racing title last year in TCR UK, as he fought back from tough 2021

Picture by: Mick Walker

Boardley claimed his first circuit racing title final 12 months in TCR UK, as he fought again from powerful 2021

Observe limits bit once more at Oulton Park, the place excessive temperatures and the compensation weight his Croft tempo had earned contributed to set-up struggles. However the upside of his penalty was reversed-grid pole and a snug victory. Subsequent was the collection’ solely triple-header spherical at Knockhill, a venue the place Boardley has at all times shone.

“It’s important to seize it by the scruff of the neck and actually wrestle the automobile spherical, and I feel that fits me,” he asserts. “I went into Knockhill stuffed with confidence and realizing that we might do nicely. We acquired the automobile in a very good window and I mentioned to the boys on the Friday night, ‘We’re going to stay it on pole tomorrow, win race one, and if we will I’ll stick it on pole for race three as nicely.’”

Prophecy fulfilled, Boardley grabbed the factors lead. A fourth win in 5 races got here at Silverstone, extending his factors lead regardless of an over-optimistic lunge from Jenson Brickley in race two. Like Boardley, fellow Cupra driver Brickley – engineered by ex-Workforce Pyro chief Mark Hunt – was working solo, and the pair had shaped a data-sharing relationship.

“It’s been a very pleasing 12 months. Just about the entire different guys within the collection are actually good, there’s no wallies” Carl Boardley

“The automobiles are fairly complicated from an information aspect, ensuring every part’s working because it ought to,” explains Boardley. “So it gave us a comparability to make it possible for we didn’t have any anomalies within the working techniques.”

After a moist race on the improper set-up at Donington Park grew to become a dropped rating, the six-week break till the Manufacturers Hatch finale might have induced nerves, however Boardley remained relaxed. After adopting a cautious method to set-up in changeable situations, he sealed his first circuit racing title with fourth within the opener.

“I’m doing one thing that I wish to do, and it’s pleasing – what’s the purpose in getting nervous?” causes Boardley, who’s near confirming his 2024 plans. “It’s been a very pleasing 12 months. Just about the entire different guys within the collection are actually good, there’s no wallies. Everyone’s out for their very own racing however, on the identical time, everyone’s respectful and wise with what they do. We’ve had an pleasing time on and off monitor.”

With support from Hart GT, Boardley got his hands on the ultimate prize last season and enjoys the competition

Picture by: Gary Hawkins

With assist from Hart GT, Boardley acquired his fingers on the last word prize final season and enjoys the competitors

How TCR UK continues to enhance

TCR UK supremo Stewart Traces doesn’t shrink back from the inevitable comparability with the British Touring Automotive Championship, however neither does he search to fan the flames. “We have to exist in the identical area, don’t we?” he causes.

A former BTCC racer himself, Traces competed within the inaugural season of TCR UK in 2018 when grid sizes hovered round 10 automobiles. The next 12 months he took over the promotion, initially included throughout the Touring Automotive Trophy, which allowed different two-litre tin-top equipment. However since 2022, TCR UK has stood by itself two ft as soon as extra, with grids usually topping 20 automobiles.

The previous two TCR UK champions are former BTCC racers, so how completely different are the automobiles to drive? Carl Boardley, final 12 months’s title winner, has pushed variations of the Cupra Leon in TCR and NGTC guises and says: “With a BTCC automobile, it must be on the sting of throwing you off within the gravel always. That’s the one manner you will get a day out of a BTCC automobile. These TCR automobiles, though they do have the identical traits and work in the identical kind of manner, you don’t should have them fairly on that restrict and on that edge. They’re undoubtedly a bit extra forgiving.”

A TCR UK promotional push final 12 months, together with public grid walks at a number of rounds, introduced a bigger spectator presence. Traces is promising extra of the identical for 2024, together with the introduction of a Saturday afternoon race to make triple-header weekends the norm (besides on the one-day Oulton Park assembly), and additional boosts for rivals.

“We’re slowly however certainly making it a bit of bit higher,” explains Traces. “The viewing figures have gone up, the spectating figures have gone up. We’ve acquired grid walks this 12 months at each spherical. There’s going to be mounted [dedicated] testing on the Fridays. After which we’ve acquired extra races – we’ve gone from 15 to twenty.”

The third race successfully replaces free follow, making higher use of monitor time, whereas any fears of elevated working prices are additional allayed by the plan for tyre allocations to stay unchanged. Prize cash for 2024 – a well-liked introduction final 12 months – has but to be introduced, however all registered drivers will obtain a package deal of engine and gearbox oil from sponsor Liqui Moly. Additional incentive for drivers of older equipment comes with the introduction of the Gen 1 Cup.

A largely constant package deal of assist collection will characteristic all through the 2024 season, with the British Racing & Sports activities Automotive Membership’s Audi TT Cup and Fiesta ST240 championship becoming a member of final season’s regulars, Civic Cup and Fiesta Junior. In addition to benefiting from the next profile, it helps groups working automobiles in a number of classes to unfold their prices. In a world of financial uncertainty, TCR UK appears to have carved its place available in the market.

TCR UK has had some disappointing
years, but interest is growing now

Picture by: JEP

TCR UK has had some disappointing years, however curiosity is rising now



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