Photo: PSP Images

Bradley Kent claims pole for TCR UK opener at Snetterton

Essex & Kent Motorsport’s Bradley Kent started the 2023 TCR UK season by taking pole on Snetterton’s 300 layout in his Hyundai Veloster N.

TCR Europe star Josh Files was first to set a flying lap, a 2:07.304 in his Hyundai Elentra N, as one of the few drivers who opted to go for a proper qualifying run straight away rather than heading on track solely to warm up the tyres and then return to the pits.

Files held an advantage of almost nine seconds over second-placed Lewis Brown until Malcolm Wilson set a 2:08.670.

Practice pacesetter Alex Ley then set a 1:57.694 to go fastest by 9.61s, and soon there were more drivers lapping at a representative pace as the half-hour session reached its 10-minute mark.

Carl Broadley and then Joseph Marshall-Birks went second fastest, but were both three seconds slower than Ley, and Brad Hutchinson and Rick Kerry jumped up to fourth and fifth.

Bruce Winfield was next to cut the gap to Ley, then reigning champion Chris Smiley went second in the brand-new Honda Civic Typre R FL5 – despite electrical gremlins limiting his running with the car in qualifying trim – and he got within 0.04s of Ley.

The benchmark pace was lowered slightly by Ley to 1:57.386, but that was shortlived as Kent – despite coming across traffic – put himself on provisional pole with a 1:57.176.

Moments later Files, who had been in the pits and was now on his second run, went fastest by 0.038s.

Adam Shepherd demoted Kent to third, and then Kent’s fastest lap was deleted and he dropped to eighth on the timesheet as qualifying reached its halfway point.

There were less improvements in the session’s second half, although Kent returned to second place by posting a 1:57.377 with just over nine minutes remaining.

An incident that involved Brown and left George Jaxon facing the wrong way and stopped on track led to red flags and a lengthy break in the session, with six minutes still left on the clock when it restarted.

Shepherd was the first driver to make a big improvement following that, putting his Hyundai i30 N provisionally on the front row with a 1:56.982 lap.

Files kept himself in first place by setting a 1:56.748s, and he then pitted with pole seemingly assured.

Winfield came close to his pace with 20s to go, recording a 1:56.882s lap, then both were bettered by Kent who snatched pole by 0.078s to lead an all-Hyundai top four.

Following the chequered flag, Smiley put himself fifth on the grid and 0.706s off Kent’s pace. Kent is being supported this weekend by his brother Lewis, who won the title in 2021 and is currently taking a step back from being in the cockpit.

Following an engine issue with his Audi RS3 LMS II in practice, Rob Boston Racing’s Jack Constable didn’t get on track during qualifying.

The first two races of the season take place on Sunday at 13:20 and 17:20 local time (BST).