What we’re looking forward to on the national racing scene in 2023
We're shaping up for another great season of national motorsport in 2023. Autosport staffers and contributors pick out their potential highlights from the calendar
Even in the cost of living crisis we're currently enduring, there's plenty of optimism to be found on the UK motorsport scene. As Stephen Lickorish outlined in his recent column, several themed events will be highlights on the national racing calendar in 2023, while numerous new championships are set to make a splash on the club scene.
Following in the footsteps of our international correspondents, we wanted to cast the net wide and ask our team of national contributors for their most eagerly-anticipated motorsport moments of the year ahead. Here is what we came up with.
Guest stars on the BTCC bill, Stephen Lickorish
The Mini Miglias and Se7ens thrilled when they appeared on the BTCC bill in 2020
Photo by: jep/motorsport images
There’s always some fantastic racing among the British Touring Car Championship supports. It will be interesting to see whether Porsche GB Junior Adam Smalley can follow in four of his predecessors’ footsteps and claim a title, or if anyone can repeat Alex Dunne’s British Formula 4 domination. We wonder who will triumph from the packed Mini Challenge masses, and how the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB will fare now that the Caymans have permanently locked onto the TOCA bill.
Insight: The fantastic five that marched to BTCC supports glory in 2022
But it could well be the guests that steal the show.
Ginetta’s departure to SRO has created the chance for a plethora of club championships to have a moment in the spotlight and race alongside the touring cars. The last time the Mini 7 Racing Club had such an opportunity, at Brands Hatch in 2020, they produced three barnstorming contests. Expect more of the same at Thruxton.
Caterhams also have a reputation for close racing and the top-tier 420R machines will join the fray at Silverstone, while Radical’s motorsport offering has undergone a revamp for 2023 and the Radical Cup UK will be in action at Snetterton and Oulton Park.
But perhaps the most eye-catching of the additions is a three-event Legends BTCC championship. These pocket rockets and their drawn-out-of-the-hat grids make for some spectacular action. Clearly, there is plenty to look forward to at these events, and that’s without even mentioning the headline act.
Autosport 3 Hours, Stefan Mackley
Pre-1966 GT machinery will take on the famed enduro that opens the Historic Sports Car Club season at Snetterton
Photo by: Richard Styles
There’s every reason to be excited about the return of the Autosport 3 Hours this year, not least because of the race’s roll call of previous winners and the plethora of pre-1966 GT cars likely to be in action.
The event was last held in 2015 but its history dates back to 1957, with two-time Formula 1 champion Jim Clark taking the top spot in 1959 and 1963 – the latter the same year as his maiden F1 title no less – while inaugural British Saloon Car champion Jack Sears proved victorious the following year.
The return of the event is in connection with the Historic Sports Car Club and will be the organiser’s season-opener on 23 April at Snetterton, the Norfolk circuit that is the traditional home of the event.
The race is set to feature five different classes for pre-1966 GTs based on engine capacity, with a 50-minute qualifying session followed by a three-hour race. Machines can be driven solo or shared by up to three drivers, while it will be a rare chance to see cars in action on the 200 layout at the Snetterton venue.
Autosport’s involvement with the event means there’s also the possibility of a drive in the race itself. The chance to race an historic car in an event with such history certainly makes it this writer’s most anticipated moment of the coming year.
Goodwood's 25th Revival, Marcus Pye
The Revival's 25th anniversary will see another fantastic celebration of motor racing on offer
Photo by: Jeff Bloxham / Motorsport Images
Goodwood’s 71st Members’ Meeting on 2 July 1966 marked the end of the road for racing at the former RAF Westhampnett airfield, enshrined in motorsport folklore for 19 seasons.
Not in their wildest dreams did competitors or spectators that gloomy day foresee full-blooded racing returning, although testing, sprints and rallies continued. But, 32 years later, on 18 September 1998, precisely 50 years after Goodwood’s opening, Lord March finally realised his ambition to rekindle his racer grandfather’s passion.
There have been countless stunning races at what became an annual gathering, now livestreamed globally. Even if you have attended all 24 Revivals to date, as I have, September’s 25th running, celebrating Goodwood’s 75th anniversary, will be extra special.
It’s high theatre set against a glorified pre-’66 backdrop, not historic racing per se, and the dynamic of the cast – like the cars – has evolved since 1948 opening day winner Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and John Surtees thrilled fans at early Revivals. Only Jackie Stewart of the F1 champions who starred at Goodwood contemporarily remains.
So dress in period style, make the pilgrimage and enjoy a unique experience. We won’t be wowed by a Spitfire thundering from Madgwick past the pits at low level and buzzing our host as in 1998, but doubtless his grace will be back in the Bristol with which his grandfather opened the venue.
The British Hillclimb Championship, Paul Lawrence
Channel Islands trip will be a British Hillclimb highlight for Lawrence
Photo by: Paul Lawrence
The 2022 British Hillclimb Championship season will take some beating this year. But there are signs that 2023 could be even better as the big guns of this incredible branch of the sport slug it out over fractions of a second.
With records being broken all over, there have been some stunning top-12 run-offs, when the fastest drivers of the day go head to head, in the past campaign. This time around, my season is due to take in at least nine of the events, including a return trip to the magnificent Bouley Bay in the Channel Islands.
Wallace Menzies starts as title favourite but he will be the first to say that nothing can be taken for granted and that he will have to work incredibly hard to bag a fourth straight title with his Gould GR59. Alex Summers, Scott Moran, Matthew Ryder and Trevor Willis can all take the fight to the flying Scotsman.
Summers, in his stunning IndyCar-powered DJ Firestorm, is the man who ran Menzies closest last year and their sporting rivalry was a delight to witness. That will be renewed, but multiple champion Moran can never be underestimated and Ryder proved to be quickest of all on his day.
So the stage is set for some mighty action and I commend a visit to at least one of the rounds. It’s an underrated and sometimes overlooked branch of the sport, yet the spectacle, atmosphere and camaraderie is utterly outstanding.
Brands Hatch Super Touring Power, Mark Paulson
Reliving their 1990s heyday, the Super Tourers have a dedicated meeting at Brands Hatch this year
Photo by: Steve Jones
There’s plenty to whet the appetite in national and club-level tin-tops this year. Finally delivering on its promise, the burgeoning TCR UK series is set to provide close multi-marque action among a packed field of contemporary cars. Meanwhile, the increasing popularity of 1970s machinery – now catered for in multiple series – could be another feature.
But the potential stand-out is the new Super Touring Power event at Brands Hatch on 1-2 July. Circuit operator MotorSport Vision has successfully adopted a festival theme for many events in recent years and this is its latest addition.
Building on the buzz generated by the Classic Touring Car Racing Club’s Super Tourers series, the event will celebrate one of the most fondly remembered eras of the British Touring Car Championship. Period greats like John Cleland and Anthony Reid, both regulars in the series last year, should be among a host of star drivers and cars for demonstrations and displays as well as racing. The Super Tourers will contest two races each day, with the venue’s spectator-friendly Indy circuit and ever-popular driving challenge of the Grand Prix layout offering the best of both worlds.
It’s not all about 1990s Super Touring cars either. All eight CTCRC championships will feature in recognition of 65 years of the BTCC. From Minis and Hillman Imps battling American V8s in Pre-’66 Touring Cars, through the Ford Capris of the Pre-’83 Group 1 era and Pre-’93 Group A BMW M3s, it’s a dream line-up for touring car aficionados.
750MC Clio Sport Championship, Carl McKellar
The 750MC's Clio Sport Championship with a feisty pack of 197 and 182 models will make for thrilling viewing
Photo by: Steve Jones
With predicted average grids of close to 30 cars, the reigning champion moving up to the top 197 class and a former nemesis of his returning, this year’s 750 Motor Club Clio Sport Championship is shaping up to be a cracker.
After winning two titles in an older 182 model, Jack Dwane has switched to a Clio 197, meaning he will have to learn fast if he’s to make it a hat-trick. Justin Griffiths and Owain Rosser, both outright winners in 197s in 2022, are continuing and their greater knowledge of the newer cars, which rapidly became dominant over the 182s after their introduction to the category, could pay dividends early on.
After sitting out last season, Dwane’s closest challenger from 2021, Jack Kingsbury, is making a comeback, also in a newly built 197. In fact, K-Tec had reportedly sold 14 new 197 rollcages to date, with potentially more on order. A similar number of 182s look likely to turn out too, making for some potentially hairy and unpredictable qualifying sessions as the top 197 names thread their way through on a hot lap. The competition at the front in both classes was fierce and wide open during the 2022 season, and the unpredictability is set to continue as the whole grid moves from Yokohama to Toyo rubber in 2023.
Another of the 750MC’s tin-top categories, its Type R Trophy, is also one to watch with potentially its biggest grid yet, the club indicating that it anticipates around 25 full-season entries.
Watts tackling the Mazda MX-5 Supercup at Cadwell Park, Steve Hindle
Watts is making the jump to MX-5 Supercup
Photo by: Gary Hawkins
Forging an independent career in motorsport when your father is a larger-than-life former touring car driver was never going to be easy. Add into the mix a partner who is not only a successful racer in his own right but also the son of a national treasure (and 1976 Formula 1 world champion), and it’s easy to see why Aimee Watts has had to learn how to fight – to be seen and to be taken seriously.
Despite a lifetime in the paddock, she’s still fairly new to this. Indeed, it wasn’t until 2020 that she first made the transition from watching her dad to joining him (for a bit of fun) in the C1 Racing Series. One year later and she was on the top step of the podium.
Now, having partnered Patrick in both the C1 and his historic Mini Cooper, it’s time for Watts to make her own way in the sport. For 2023, she’s joining the Mazda MX-5 Supercup. She had one solo outing last year in an old Mk1, but the Mk3 cars are a very different proposition. Fast and edgy, powerful and well-spec’d, they demand respect, and are easily capable of outpacing the likes of a Boxster S.
It’s going to be a big leap, especially as she not only has to learn a new car but new circuits too, such as the uniquely challenging Cadwell Park in August. Nevertheless, she’s ready, willing and – without a doubt – able. See you on the Mountain.
Another intriguing GB3 title battle, Steve Whitfield
Browning won the title last year on his way to securing the 2022 Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
After a strong season in 2022, with record grids and a close duel for the title, things look promising for an even greater GB3 campaign this term. With Zandvoort added to the calendar for the first time alongside the traditional trek to Spa, the series has a growing international flavour while still maintaining its presence at some of the UK’s best circuits.
The grid is starting to take shape as teams begin revealing line-ups, with an interesting mix of contenders once again, from karting and Formula 4 graduates looking to make their mark to sophomore drivers hoping to stamp their authority this time around.
All eyes will be on reigning British F4 champion Alex Dunne, who has chosen GB3 for the next phase of his career as he tries to follow in the footsteps of 2022 series champion Luke Browning at Hitech GP. And the addition of Red Bull Junior Souta Arao alongside him is proof that the series is growing in reputation as a viable step on the single-seater ladder towards Formula 1.
Following his race-winning season in GB3 last year, Max Esterson reminded everybody of his potential by going on to win the prestigious Formula Ford Festival in October, and he will be another to watch as he looks to add to his trophy collection with a switch to Fortec. With more drivers set to be announced in the coming weeks, it promises to be another exciting season. Let battle commence!
Will a switch to Fortec allow Festival winner Esterson to challenge for the title?
Photo by: JEP
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