Photo: PSP Images

Carl Boardley crowned TCR UK champion as Alex Ley wins Brands opener

Carl Boardley wrapped up the TCR UK drivers’ title with a steady drive to fourth in the opening race of the weekend at Brands Hatch, which was won by Alex Ley.

The CBM Cupra driver came into the weekend’s penultimate race of the year with a healthy points margin and needed only to keep chief rival Adam Shepherd in sight to be crowned.

Shepherd finished third behind Callum Newsham and Ley but it was not enough to prevent Boardley from sealing the title with a race to spare.

“It’s massive,” said an emotional Boardley post-race. “Without the team and everyone, I wouldn’t be stood here with this championship so I am absolutely made up. It’s been a long time coming as it’s been about 12 years since I last won a championship overall.”

There was drama even before the race got underway, as polesiter Jenson Brickley was forced to start from the pitlane after encountering an issue on the grid. That elevated Callum Newsham to the effective pole from the other side of the grid, but he was usurped by the fast-starting Hyundai of Alex Ley as the lights went out.

Both were passed by Chris Smiley’s Honda which vaulted off the line from third to take the lead as the field navigated through Paddock Hill Bend for the first time. Behind, Adam Shepherd moved up two places to fifth, and quickly disposed of title rival Boardley at Clearways on the second lap.

The race was then neutralised after Mark Smith found the gravel at Paddock Hill, with Smiley maintaining his lead from Ley at the restart.

Pressured by Newsham, Ley soon got back onto the tail of Smiley, who appeared to struggle for pace around much of the lap and things eventually came to a head as Smiley got baulked behind a lapped car.

Ley went around the outside of Druids which became the inside at Grahah Hill Bend. This allowed Newsham to make it three-wide on the run to Clearways, with Boardley also entering the mix. Newsham somehow managed to maintain his third place on the exit of Clearways but Smiley’s pace woes continued to bunch the pack up.

Shepherd, meanwhile, was fourth and in desperate need of further progress to try and keep his slim title hopes alive. The Hyundai driver had held his patience behind the squabbling Newsham and Smiley but suddenly fell into the clutches of Boardley entering the closing stages.

Newsham was then gifted second place on the exit of Graham Hill Bend as mechanical issues struck the Honda Civic Type-R once again. The outgoing series champion dropped down the order and eventually retired.

Now, Shepherd was up to third but Boardley was also handed an extra position as the Cupra driver elected to cruise home to the championship crown in fourth.

Out front, Ley had extended his lead over the rest of the field to the tune of just over three seconds, as Newsham came second with Shepherd completing the podium in third.

Behind Boardley, Joe Marshall finished fifth in his Audi, ahead of a recovering Brickley who set the fastest lap en route to a strong sixth place.

Jac Constable and Bruce Winfield were close behind, while Oliver Cottam and Brad Hutchison rounded out the top 10 finishers.

The final race of the TCR UK season is scheduled to take place later on today at 15:05 local time (16:05 CET)