BUMPER ENTRY GETS SET FOR BRANDS HATCH
Five months after Nelson King successfully wrapped up the 2022 title in wet conditions at Brands Hatch, the MINI CHALLENGE Trophy returns to the Kent circuit this weekend to get the 2023 season underway.
Whilst the same, all-action racing is expected on track, there is plenty that is new about the upcoming campaign, not least a new title sponsor for the series in the shape of Vertu Motors – who take pride of place on the visor of every competing car for 2023.
The entry itself also shows a raft of changes, with more than half of the drivers on the list embarking on their rookie seasons and bidding to take the challenge to the more established order.
With eight cars on the entry list, Graves Motorsport goes with a blend of old and new amongst its line-up, with five drivers who have prior experience of the series being joined by three newcomers.
Nicky Taylor – who took fourth in the points last season – returns for a second season with the team looking to try and return to the top step of the podium, whilst it will be a similar story for Alex Solley who, like Taylor, scored multiple podiums last year but didn’t manage to grab a win.
Ben Jenkins returns looking to try and fight his way up the order after showing flashes of pace in 2022, most notably at Thruxton where he set fastest lap, whilst reigning Rookie Cup winner Jack Byrne is one of the expected front-runners on the back of his impressive debut year – and now has the benefit of running with an established team rather than for his family-run outfit.
Frankie Taylor took big steps forward during 2022 and will also look to benefit from joining forces with a new tea, with rookie Alex Keen, Daniel Armstrong and James Black rounding out the line-up.
Former champions EXCELR8 also go with strength in numbers for 2023 with a total of seven cars, with its entry being led by Tom Ovenden.
The former rallycross champion is the highest-placed returning driver from last season, having beaten Taylor to third in the standings, and is a proven race winner – making him one of the expected favourites for the championship title.
Nathan Edwards will hope to also be in contention as he returns to the team for a full season, after a mid-campaign switch last year ended with him scoring a double podium during the final weekend. With a year under his belt, Luca Marinoni Osborne will hope to make the most of the experience gained so far to push forwards into the top ten, with the remaining four drivers all in contention for the Rookie Cup.
Gabe Fairbrother and Harvey Riby both step up from karting, and are joined by Ben Taylor – a MINI racer in various multi-marque championships – and Scottish teenager Katia Loggie, who embarks on the first stage of her racing career.
LDR Performance Tuning welcome back Directors Cup pairing Mick and Brendan Fitzgerald to partner another pair of rookies in Jacob Heap and Jamie Keates, whilst there are also two newcomers at AReeve Motorsport, where Sam Gornall and Andy Cobb join the returning Sophie Wright.
The other two returning teams are both unchanged from last season, with Lee Pearce and Clark Wells once again joining forces under the Lee Pearce Racing banner and Paul Manning being the sole entrant for the Mannpower Motorsport team run by his son James.
Pearce will however run alone this weekend at Brands Hatch, with Wells not present for the opening meeting of the year.
Four new teams round out the entry, all of which field line-ups comprising solely of rookie drivers.
NAPA Racing UK joins the MINI CHALLENGE this season with four cars, two of which are in the Cooper class for Cameron Richardson and Callum Eason, with Westbourne Motorsport running two of the youngest drivers on the grid in Harry Hickton and Junior Saloons champion Maximus Hall.
Chandler Motorsport makes its series debut with two cars for Rhys Hurd and Reece Lycett, with the grid rounded out by former Junior Saloon racer Ashley Gregory and her family-run team.
Three races are scheduled for this weekend, the first of which is set to take place on Saturday afternoon at 14:50.
Races two and three are scheduled for 12:15 and 17:15 on Sunday, with live coverage on the BARC YouTube channel
2023 Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy Entry:
3 – Sophie Wright, AReeve Motorsport
5 – Katia Loggie, EXCELR8
7 – Mick Fitzgerald, LDR Performance Tuning
8 – Daniel Armstrong, Graves Motorsport
11 – Gabe Fairbrother, EXCELR8
12 – Alex Solley, Graves Motorsport
15 – Cameron Richardson, NAPA Racing UK
16 – Jacob Heap, LDR Performance Tuning
17 – Nicky Taylor, Graves Motorsport
21 – Nathan Edwards, EXCELR8
22 – Ashley Gregory, Ashley Gregory Racing
23 – Lee Pearce, Lee Pearce Racing
24 – Tom Ovenden, EXCELR8
26 – Callum Eason, NAPA Racing UK
32 – Frankie Taylor, Graves Motorsport
33 – Jamie Keates, LDR Performance Tuning
46 – Paul Manning, Mannpower Motorsport
53 – James Black, Graves Motorsport
59 – Rhys Hurd, Chandler Motorsport
60 – Brendan Fitzgerald, LDR Performance Tuning
62 – Alex Keens, Graves Motorsport
64 – Harry Hickton, Westbourne Motorsport
71 – Harvey Riby, EXCELR8
81 – Luca Marinoni Osborne, EXCELR8
86 – Ben Taylor, EXCELR8
93 – Maximus Hall, Westbourne Motorsport
96 – Sam Gornall, AReeve Motorsport
99 – Ben Jenkins, Graves Motorsport
117 – Reece Lycett, Chandler Motorsport
123 – Andy Cobb, AReeve Motorsport
486 – Jack Byrne, Graves Motorsport
711 – Clark Wells, Lee Pearce Racing